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Former judge, solicitor general and independent counsel Kenneth Starr — a major player on the Washington, D.C., legal scene for nearly a quarter-century — will become dean of Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, Calif., on Aug. 1. The Pepperdine announcement took the D.C. legal establishment by surprise. Starr will maintain a role in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis, where he has been an architect and leader of the appellate practice. “Ken has made an enormous contribution here and will continue to make his mark, I am sure,” said Solicitor General Theodore Olson, a longtime friend, on Tuesday. “He is an intellectual leader and has been active in almost every part of the law.” Olson pointed to Starr’s love for teaching as the main reason for the decision. In addition to his private practice, Starr teaches courses at New York University School of Law, George Mason University School of Law, and Chapman University School of Law. He has also lectured at Pepperdine in the past. Starr, 57, is expected to retain substantial ties to Kirkland & Ellis, working with its D.C. and Los Angeles offices and continuing in his rainmaker role for the firm. “It’s not like the king is dead. The king is going to be part-time,” said one Kirkland insider who declined to be named. Word spread within the firm on Monday, before any formal announcement was made. A call to Thomas Yannucci, chairman of Kirkland’s D.C. management committee, was not returned. Other top appellate partners at Kirkland include Edward Warren, 60, and Christopher Landau, 40, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Warren and Landau have steered the appellate practice along with Starr for years. Starr was tapped for the Pepperdine position once before — in 1997, at the height of his Whitewater probe as independent counsel. But he withdrew after critics urged him to see the investigation through. “His career has exemplified the highest ethical standards and unqualified personal and professional integrity,” said Pepperdine President Andrew Benton in announcing Starr’s appointment. Starr was picked after a six-month search that included candidates from the Pepperdine faculty, as well as from outside the university. One sign that Starr is not severing his D.C. ties is that he and his wife, Alice Starr, are keeping their Virginia home. Starr, a former clerk to Chief Justice Warren Burger, began his legal career at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in California. He returned to D.C. in 1981 as counselor to Attorney General William French Smith, who had been at Gibson, Dunn. He was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1983 to 1989, and then was lured by the first President George Bush into leaving the bench and serving as solicitor general, where he argued 25 cases before the Supreme Court. In 1993 he joined Kirkland. The next year he became independent counsel for Whitewater-related matters, but his portfolio grew to include the Monica Lewinsky affair, which led to his controversial report that culminated in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1999. The announcement about Starr’s new post came while he was out of the country. He and his wife are in Morocco, friends said, enjoying a vacation they won in a charity raffle.

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