John Manning will be the next dean of Harvard Law School.
University leaders announced Thursday that Manning, a conservative scholar who has been on the faculty of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, law school since 2004 and served as deputy dean since 2013, will replace outgoing dean Martha Minow on July 1.
His appointment ends a closely guarded, six-month search process that saw students calling for more input and offering up their own candidate.
The 12-member committee settled upon Manning, whose scholarship focuses on statutory interpretation and structural constitutional law.
Manning said in an interview Thursday that he wanted the dean job in order to help shepherd the law school into its third century. (Harvard Law is celebrating its bicentennial this year.)
“I care very much about Harvard Law School,” Manning said. “It’s a great place. It produces leaders, generation after generation, year in and year out, who want to go out and make the world better. It’s an exciting, vibrant place to work.”
Manning’s appointment is notable in part because his conservative background stands in contrast to most of his Harvard Law colleagues and that of his two immediate dean predecessors—Minow and current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
Kagan brought Manning to the faculty in 2004 after a decade teaching at Columbia Law School, amid a wave of hires meant to boost ideological diversity at Harvard’s law school. Manning clerked for U.S. Appeals Court Judge Robert Bork in 1985 and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 1988, and has addressed Federalist Society groups. (Both Kagan and Minow clerked for the liberal Thurgood Marshall.)
Harvard President Drew Faust in Thursday’s announcement praised Manning’s “collaborative instincts” and “extraordinary devotion” to the law school and its community.
“He has an unusual capacity for creating conversations and connections across lines of difference, and a deep appreciation for a wide range of perspectives and methods,” Faust said.
“[He] is known among colleagues and students for his intellect and humility, his wisdom and integrity, his energy and openness.”
Fellow legal academics rushed to Twitter on Thursday to sing Manning’s praises and commend Harvard for his selection. Heather Gerken, who will assume the deanship at Yale Law School the same day Manning is installed as dean at Harvard, called him, “a gem.” Daniel Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, tweeted that Manning is a “very capable, accomplished, inspiring leader.”
Manning’s appointment also won praise from Kagan, who helmed the storied law school herself from 2003 to 2009 before stepping down to join the bench.
“Having admired John Manning since we were law students together more than 30 years ago, I know he will lead Harvard Law School with the energy, intelligence, collegiality, and good judgment that he brings to everything he does,” Kagan said in the announcement of Manning’s appointment.
Manning’s prolific scholarship has also been influential, said Case Western Reserve University School of Law professor Jonathan Adler in a post on the Volokh Conspiracy blog. His work helped persuade Scalia to reconsider his position on an earlier ruling that gave government agencies “controlling weight” to interpret their own regulations.
Manning said he plans to spend the summer in discussions with students, faculty, staff and alumni about how to further the school’s mission.
“We’ll want to talk about how to stimulate a lively exchange of ideas and scholarship on the pressing issues of today and tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll want to talk about how to have cutting-edge legal education—how to give our students the skills they need to be great and effective 21st century lawyers and leaders. We’ll want to talk about how to deepen our sense of community.”
Manning graduated from Harvard Law School in 1985 and was an associate in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for two years. He did two stints in the U.S. Department of Justice before joining the Columbia law faculty in 1994.
Manning has published more than 40 law review articles, and is co-author of two casebooks.
Leading one of the nation’s most prominent law schools is no easy task, however. Tensions over diversity and inclusion boiled over on the law campus during the 2015-16 academic year, with a group of students occupying a lounge for months to draw attention to their cause. That turmoil died down during the most recent academic year, but Harvard Law School operates under a national microscope. The school’s March announcement that it will soon accept GRE scores from applicants in addition to LSAT scores prompted legal educators and pundits worldwide to predict other schools would follow suit.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ