Chapman Law School Dean defends John Yoo

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Statement of Dean John C. Eastman 

Regarding the Appointment of Professor John Yoo as the 2009 Fletcher Jones Distinguished Visiting Professor at Chapman University School of Law


December 15, 2008 


Chapman University officials have received several notes of concern about my decision 

to offer Professor John Yoo a distinguished visitorship at the Chapman University School 

of Law.  Professor Yoo has been a well-regarded member of the law faculty at the 

University of California, Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law since 1993, one of the top 

law schools in the nation.  He visited at the University of Chicago in 2003 and held the 

Distinguished Fulbright Chair in Law at the University of Trento (Italy) in 2006.  While I 

acknowledge the controversy surrounding the legal positions Professor Yoo articulated 

during his tenure as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel of 

the U.S. Department of Justice during the administration of President George W. Bush, 

we are very much looking forward to Professor Yoo's visit at Chapman University, 

where our students and, indeed, the entire academic community here at Chapman, can 

engage him in a serious, yet civil, scholarly discussion of the issues on which he provided 

legal counsel while serving in the administration. 


In this, our position is not unlike that of Christopher Edley, Professor Yoo's Dean at 

Berkeley, and presently a leading member of President-Elect Barack Obama's transition 

team.  Dean Edley's position in defense of academic freedom is a model for us all.  It is 

available at  Dean Edley 

noted that "in Berkeley's classrooms and courtyards our community argues about the 

legal and moral issues with the intensity and discipline these crucial issues deserve. 

Those who prefer to avoid these arguments--be they left or right or lazy--will not find 

Berkeley or any other truly great law school a wholly congenial place to study. For that 

we make no apology." 


It would be simple for academic institutions to ignore views from one end or the other of 

the political spectrum.  Indeed, all too many law schools have faculties that are much too 

homogenous with respect to their views on contested matters.  We, on the other hand, 

pride ourselves on having built a law school that is now one of the most ideologically 

diverse in the nation.  Several members of our faculty have clerked at the Supreme Court, 

but the Justices for whom they worked run the gamut on the ideological spectrum, from 

the late Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas to Justices Brennan, Stevens, and 

Souter.  This semester we have Richard Falk as our Bette & Wylie Aitken Distinguished 

Visiting Professor.  Professor Falk, the Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law 

and Practice, Emeritus at Princeton University, is an internationally recognized human 

rights scholar, but also extremely controversial.  He was recently named the U.N.'s 

rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, but his views are so hostile to Israel that Israel 

has denied him a visa.  He has in addition authored the preface to a book that argues that 

the Bush administration was complicit in the attacks on September 11, commending the 

book for its "single coherent account" of the accusations, and he is listed by David 

Horowitz as one of "The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America."  I have no doubt 

that people on the other side of the political aisle from Professor Falk are as troubled by 

his having a visiting appointment at Chapman as others are by John Yoo's appointment, 

but students and faculty of every political stripe have found his presence here to be both 

stimulating and thought-provoking, and we fully expect the same result from Professor 

Yoo's visit. 


Finally, I would encourage those who object to Professor Yoo's appointment here to read 

his scholarly work on the subject of Executive power, and in particular the memos he 

authored while serving in the administration.  Read, too, the full range of serious 

commentary on that work.  You will find that Yoo's position, while disputed, is far from 

ignorant or disrespectful of the Constitution.  No less a constitutional law scholar than 

Harvard's Alan Dershowitz had made similar constitutional arguments in favor of 

executive power in time of war.  See, for example, 


In the wake of 9/11, President Bush pledged to use every legal and constitutional tool at 

his disposal to prevent another attack on our homeland.  Some of the task of identifying 

the line between legal and illegal, constitutional and unconstitutional, fell to Professor 

Yoo during his time of service in the administration.  Many believe his legal analysis was 

flawed, but others, serious constitutional scholars and historians among them, think he 

got it right or at least made a fair stab at it.  The opportunity to explore some of the most 

profoundly important legal questions of our age with someone who was actually present 

and involved in the them, whether it be Professor Falk or Professor Yoo, is a phenomenal 

opportunity for our students, even (and perhaps especially) those who vehemently 

disagree with the positions they have taken.  As Dean Edley noted, that is the mark of a 

truly great law school, and I am honored to say that Chapman is increasingly worthy of 

being considered in such company, in no small measure due to prominent appointments 

such as Richard Falk and John Yoo. 

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