Sept. 5, 2023
By William Cracraft

Erwin Chemerinsky
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkeley Law, is the recipient of the 2023 Ninth Circuit John Frank Award, which recognizes lawyers who have demonstrated outstanding character and integrity, among other attributes.

“In the tradition of legendary Phoenix attorney John P. Frank, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky is both a great lawyer and a great teacher,” said U.S. Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Emerita Mary M. Schroeder. “His is a voice that stands up for the constitution, judicial independence and the Rule of Law whenever they are threatened. Dean Chemerinsky lectures widely as an exceptionally articulate scholar of United States Supreme Court decisions and is known as a friend and supporter of judges and lawyers everywhere. He is a most worthy recipient of this year’s Ninth Circuit “lawyer’s lawyer” award, created by our attorney Ninth Circuit Advisory Board and named in honor of Mr. Frank.”

The John P. Frank Award, established in 2003 and awarded by the Advisory Board, recognizes a lawyer who has “demonstrated outstanding character and integrity; dedication to the rule of law; proficiency as a trial and appellate lawyer; success in promoting collegiality among members of the bench and bar; and a lifetime of service to the federal courts of the Ninth Circuit.” 

“This award recognizes Dean Chemerinsky for his many and unending contributions to the Courts,” said Melinda Haag, chair of the Ninth Circuit Advisory Board, who presented the award. “Dean Chemerinsky has had a storied career in academia, is a distinguished law professor and educator, a public intellectual and an extraordinary appellate lawyer. He has been recognized as the most influential person in legal education, he is the most often cited American legal scholar, and he is acknowledged as one of the most important legal thinkers in the United States.

“He is incredibly generous with his time and his Supreme Court updates are legendary. He is noted for his amazing ability to distill enormous amounts of material and to make it understandable, whether the audience is filled with experienced judges or brand-new law students. He makes it look easy, but we know it’s the result of long hours of study and preparation.

“He was the founding dean of the UC Irvine Law School and now serves as the greatly respected Dean of UC Berkeley Law, guiding and mentoring the next generation of advocates at one of the finest law schools in the country. He also established the appellate clinic at UC Irvine, and the Ninth Circuit Practicum at UC Berkeley, both of which continue to provide pro bono representation to litigants before the Ninth Circuit who can’t afford counsel.

“One final point I must make,” said Haag, “everyone who knows him says that Dean Chemerinsky is the most decent, kind and humble person they know. His students and former students revere him. And as a Berkeley Law alum myself I can tell you that the alums do as well. It is our honor to present him with the 2023 John P. Frank Award,” Haag concluded.

Prior to becoming dean, Chemerinsky was the founding dean and distinguished professor of law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, 2008-2017. He was the Alston and Bird Professor of Law and Political Science at Duke University, 2004-2008, and was a professor at the University of Southern California Law School, including as the Sydney M. Irmas Professor of Public Interest Law, Legal Ethics, and Political Science, 1983-2004. From 1980 to 1983, he was an assistant professor at DePaul College of Law.

Chemerinsky is the author of 16 books on constitutional law, criminal procedure and federal jurisdiction. His most recent books are “Worse than Nothing: The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism” (2022) and “Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights” (2021).

He has authored more than 200 law review articles, is a contributing writer for the opinion section of the Los Angeles Times and writes regular columns for the ABA Journal and the Daily Journal. He frequently argues appellate cases, including in the United States Supreme Court. 

In 2016, he was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2017, National Jurist Magazine again named Chemerinsky as the most influential person in legal education in the United States. He was the 2022 president of the Association of American Law Schools.

The late Mr. Frank was a renowned Phoenix attorney, who over the course of a 62-year career, argued more than 500 appeals before the Arizona Court of Appeals, the Arizona Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, other federal circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The award was established in 2003 by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit at the recommendation of the Ninth Circuit Advisory Board, a group of experienced attorneys who advise on circuit governance issues.

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