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Written by David L. Hudson Jr., published on January 1, 2009 , last updated on May 5, 2024

Erwin Chemerinsky

Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. He is now the dean ofUC Berkeley School of Law. In recent years, he has appeared regularly before the Supreme Court arguing First Amendment cases. (Image via UC Berkeley School of Law)

Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky (1953– ) is one of the foremost constitutional law scholars and Supreme Court litigators. He writes on myriad First Amendment issues and argues First Amendment cases before the high court.


Chemerinsky taught law at several universities


Born in Chicago, Chemerinsky obtained his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in 1975 and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1978. Upon graduation he worked for a year in the Attorney General’s Honor Program and then a year at a Washington, D.C.–based law firm.


In 1980, Chemerinsky began his academic career at DePaul University College of Law, where he taught for several years. In 1983, he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California Law School, where he would teach for more than 20 years. In 2004 he took a position on the faculty of Duke Law School, where he served as Alston and Bird Professor of Law and Political Science.


Chemerinsky was controversial founding dean of California law school


In July 2008, he became founding dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine, in what turned into a controversial appointment.


The university temporarily withdrew its offer to Chemerinsky in September 2007 but then reversed course, sticking with its original decision to hire him after widespread expressions of concern that the university had reneged on its original offer because of Chemerinsky’s liberal political views. In July 2017, he became the dean of UC Berkeley School of Law. 


Chemerinsky’s writings examine First Amendment jurisprudence


Chemerinsky has authored leading textbooks on constitutional law and federal jurisdiction and more than 100 law review articles.


His writing examines the gamut of First Amendment jurisprudence, including commercial speech, the establishment clause, student speech rights, judicial campaign speech, content neutrality, and attorney speech.


Chemerinsky criticized campaign finance rulings


In his book The Case Against the Supreme Court, Chemerinsky criticizes the Court’s campaign finance jurisprudence, including Citizens United v. FEC (2010). Chemerinsky writes that “[t]here is much that is deeply disturbing about this case.”


Chemerinsky has argued First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court


In recent years, he has appeared regularly before the Supreme Court, including arguing the First Amendment cases of Van Orden v. Perry (2005), Tory v. Cochran (2005), United States v. Apel (2014), and the First Amendment–related case of Scheidler v. National Organization for Women (2006).


David L. Hudson, Jr. is a law professor at Belmont who publishes widely on First Amendment topics.  He is the author of a 12-lecture audio course on the First Amendment entitled Freedom of Speech: Understanding the First Amendment (Now You Know Media, 2018).  He also is the author of many First Amendment books, including The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (Thomson Reuters, 2012) and Freedom of Speech: Documents Decoded (ABC-CLIO, 2017). This article was originally published in 2009.​


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