The process of hiring a new law dean is underway at the College of William and Mary, with a committee vetting applicants for the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, and one candidate is already causing concern among some students.
The law school dean search committee has invited six candidates to visit the school in coming weeks to meet law students, faculty and alumni. The committee hopes to present a list of three to five finalists to the provost and president by April 1, according to search committee chair and law professor Eric Kades.
The dean position became vacant Sept. 5 when Taylor Reveley — who had served as law dean for 10 years — was appointed to a three-year term as College president.
Kades indicated that the six individuals on the list were mainly selected for their strong records at other law schools.
“We initially winnowed the field by examining [curriculum vitaes] and weighing their strengths as scholars along with their experience as administrators and fundraisers,” Kades said.
One individual on the list, Ronald Cass, is generating some debate among the College’s law students. Cass, the former dean of the Boston University School of Law, came under scrutiny from Boston newspapers in 2004 when funds for BU’s new law building fell millions of dollars short of the totals that Cass had originally promised.
Cass is also a widely published conservative columnist and has penned recent op-ed pieces for The Wall Street Journal, The National Review and Forbes.com. His outspoken conservative stance, combined with his lackluster fundraising history, worries law student Mark Tyler J.D. ’09.
“The old dean, Reveley, was active politically,” Tyler said. “He had a bipartisan commission on The War Powers Act with a couple former Secretaries of State, so [he was] really plugged in.”
“[Cass] is writing op-eds for conservative websites that are sort of hatchet jobs on the Clintons. It just seems unworthy of the position, given what Reveley was like.”
Aside from the fundraising discrepancy, Cass’s tenure at BU was largely regarded as very successful. Under his watch the school rose in national rankings, and the BU law faculty was ranked first by The Princeton Review from 1996 to 2000.
Before he took his post at BU, Cass served as the vice chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission, a post to which he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Currently he is the president of Cass & Associates, a legal consultancy based in Great Falls, Va.
The list also includes Linda Mullenix, the Morris and Rita Atlas Chair in Advocacy at the University of Texas School of Law. Mullenix is a specialist in class-action litigation, has written 10 books and is a columnist for the National Law Journal.
Outside the classroom, Mullenix has consulted on a number of class action litigations involving breast implants, tobacco, asbestos and pacemaker lead, in addition to frequently lecturing at the American Bar Association’s Class Action Institute.
Over the last few decades, Mullenix has held visiting professor positions at Harvard University, the University of Michigan and Southern Methodist University law schools.
Wendy Collins Perdue, another candidate selected by the search committee, is a professor and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs at Georgetown Law. Perdue is a specialist in the fields of civil procedure and conflict of laws, and was the Vice Chair of the Montgomery County, Md., planning board for nine years.
Perdue began her law career as a clerk for current Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, and testified during Kennedy’s senate confirmation hearings in 1987.
A fourth candidate, Davison Douglas, is the Arthur B. Hanson Professor of Law at the College’s law school, where he currently teaches a course entitled “Race and American Legal History.”
He also serves as the faculty advisor to the William and Mary Law Review. Douglas is an expert on Constitutional and election law, and was the director of the College’s Institute of Bill of Rights Law from 1997 to 2004. He is currently the director of the College’s election law program.
Douglas is the only member of the College’s faculty under consideration for the law dean post.
Also listed is Lawrence Ponoroff, Dean of Tulane Law School and the Mitchell Franklin Professor of Private and Commercial Law. Ponoroff is an expert on bankruptcy and teaches courses at Tulane in business and commercial law. In 2005, Ponoroff was active in placing Tulane law students at other universities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and aided with the eventual reopening of the New Orleans campus.
Aside from his position at Tulane, Ponoroff chairs the American Bar Association’s Committee on Graduate Legal Education and is a member of a number of national legal organizations.
The final name on the list is Frank Alexander, a professor at Emory Law School in Atlanta. One of Alexander’s specialties is real estate law; numerous news outlets have called upon his expertise to help explain the recent foreclosure and housing crises.
From 2005 to 2006, Alexander served as the interim dean of Emory Law. He is the author of over 30 articles relating to real estate finance, as well as articles that explore the relationship between law and theology. In 1982, Alexander founded Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.
The candidates have met or will meet with law students in the coming weeks as the committee continues considering its search.
*Applicants for VPSA, provost under review*
Separate committees are beginning to review potential permanent replacements for former Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler ’64 J.D. ’66 and outgoing Provost Geoff Feiss, who will retire this summer.
Government professor Clay Clemens ’80, chair of the VPSA search committee, said the process is running on-schedule to find a replacement for Sadler, who retired last summer.
“The committee set January 12 as the date at which it would begin reviewing applications,” he said in an e-mail. “As of then we had received 80 [applications] and have begun to go through them as the semester gets underway.”
Clemens indicated that the committee plans to narrow the list down as the semester progresses and aims to develop a list of candidates to invite to campus after spring break. Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 is currently serving as interim vice president for Student Affairs.
Similarly, according to provost search committee co-chair and sociology professor Kathleen Slevin, the committee charged with replacing the provost has begun to formulate a list of candidates from the 69 applications they received for the post.
“We narrowed [the list] to eight people whom we have interviewed in our D.C. office last week,” she said in an e-mail. “Shortly, we will narrow further and bring a small number to campus. Our hope is to bring candidates to campus sometime in February and early March.”