What excites you most about joining the new law school faculty?
I was most drawn to the opportunity to work with an amazing faculty, staff and student body to build the next world-class public law school in the United States. Also, moving to UC Irvine represented the idea of coming “home” in a variety of contexts. I was born and raised in nearby San Diego, and my undergraduate and law school experiences were at a UC institution (UC Berkeley).
Finally, I am a huge believer in public education, having graduated from two public law schools (UC Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin) and taught as a visiting professor at another (University of Connecticut). I have no doubt that UCI Law will provide an outstanding education to a diverse range of students, and that we will do so with an abiding commitment to serving the public interest.
Why did you go into law teaching? What is your teaching style?
I have always immensely enjoyed the conversation and learning process that takes place in a classroom. Given my previous career, however, I am not sure I expected law teaching would be an option so soon. Prior to, and immediately following law school, I was an officer in the United States Navy, which also funded my education. In the Navy, I gained invaluable experiences in a number of different positions, including serving as a Defense Counsel, Trial Counsel, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, Admiralty Counsel and counsel for an operational commander. While I found the work incredibly rewarding, the pull toward academia remained with me.
In 2002, with the support and encouragement of one of my law professors, I left active duty service to pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree and teaching fellowship at the University of Wisconsin. My transition to a career in law teaching has been more fulfilling than I ever imagined.
My teaching style is to engage students in a structured conversation designed to identify, unpack, and interrogate the analysis and conclusions within a set of law cases. I also like to employ real-world examples from matters I worked on, to help students understand how theory and doctrine inform the practice of law. The method is mildly Socratic but my ultimate goal is to stimulate critical thinking and to ensure students are capable of marking and challenging doctrinal shifts and anomalies that are present in the material. I also hope to impart an understanding of the dynamic nature of law - how real-world social and political dynamics influence legal choices and outcomes.
Describe your scholarship.
My scholarship, which chiefly pertains to constitutional and criminal law issues, commonly explores the themes of anti-discrimination and anti-subordination in myriad contexts. Typically, I seek to do so by identifying how a particular doctrine or methodology can be deployed to produce more equitable outcomes. The methods and doctrines change with the project, but my work is consistently informed by a number of factors.
First, although it may not always be the prominent inquiry, my research continues to focus upon questions related to the legal significance of identity - law’s influence on the expression, regulation and maintenance of identity categories as bases of enforcing societal privilege and disadvantage.
Second, I continue to use interdisciplinary approaches from fields such as sociology, anthropology and psychology, and theories from critical race/feminist theory, legal realism and socio-legal theories to advance my theses.
Finally, one perspective that has been present within the work and will likely be a future recurring theme is the need to challenge the nature and operation of legal attitudes, beliefs, norms and the formation of legal consciousness.