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The University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law has selected Harvard Law School professor Christopher Edley Jr. to be its next dean. He will be the first African-American to lead a top-ranked law school, according to Boalt Hall. Boalt’s announcement late Wednesday caps a yearlong search to replace John Dwyer, who resigned after 21 months as dean in the wake of sexual harassment allegations involving a student. The 12-member UC-Berkeley committee charged with finding a new dean was encouraged by UC-Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl to look outside the law school. John Quigley, a UC-Berkeley economics professor who was head of the committee, said Edley was selected from among 215 candidates turned up in a national search. The committee was impressed with Edley’s scholarship and experience in government, as well as the civil rights policy think tank he built at Harvard. “It’s a combination of having a first-rate scholarly reputation and solid sense of academic quality added to the fact that he has a proven record of fund raising,” Quigley said. “We thought he would be a voice for civil rights and equality, and he’ll also be a very good dean.” A Boston native, Edley earned dual degrees in 1978 from Harvard Law School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He went on to work in the Carter administration as assistant director of domestic policy staff before joining Harvard’s faculty in 1981. Edley was special counsel for the Clinton administration, helping develop its affirmative action policy. He currently serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and he established the Civil Rights Project at Harvard. Edley’s father, Christopher Edley Sr., was a lawyer and longtime head of the United Negro College Fund. In a written statement, Edley, 50, said he has eschewed deanships in the past but was drawn to the opportunity at Boalt, where he hopes to establish a center for civil rights. “California is ground zero for the transformation of America into a multiracial society, and the challenges of creating equity and opportunity are nowhere more urgent,” he said. In a statement, Berdahl called Edley one of the great leaders in legal education. “This appointment makes a statement about who we are and reinforces UC-Berkeley’s commitment to providing California and the nation with exceptional leadership on issues of social justice and the law,” he said. Rachel Moran, a Boalt professor who served on the search committee, said she and her colleagues admired Edley’s initiative and public policy experience as much as his work in civil rights. “He very much understands the obligation of public life and the responsibilities he would have here at a public law school,” Moran said. She added that Edley’s arrival will mark a fresh chapter for Boalt because he’s the first dean chosen from outside the law school since William Prosser in 1948.

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