Latest Scholarship

April 13, 2017

King Hall Faculty Wow the Crowd at Aokirama, Are Featured in Above the Law

Last weekend brought one of the most-anticipated student events of the academic year: Aokirama (formely Cardozorama), the law school talent show!

One of the biggest hits of the evening was the band Negotiable Instruments, featuring:

Prof. Angela Harris (vocals) as law professor
Prof. William Dodge (vocals) as law student
Rose Cuison Villazor (drums)
Thomas Joo (guitar)
Carlton Larson (piano)

Check them out here on YouTube!

Popular legal blog Above the Law took notice, soliciting submissions for its annual video contest by writing, "Hey law students - if your professors can do it, so can you!"


January 27, 2017

Law Review Online Launches

The UC Davis Law Review is celebrating its fiftieth volume by launching an online companion edition: the UC Davis Law Review Online. The online journal will print short, timely pieces—including essays, responses, replies, and book reviews—at

Dean Kevin R. Johnson welcomed the online journal, remarking, “The UC Davis Law Review has a proud history of excellent scholarship and has always evolved with the times.” Dean Johnson detailed that history in the online edition’s very first piece, “Foreword: 50 Volumes of the UC Davis Law Review.”

"We are hoping that the UC Davis Law Review Online will be able to grow into a robust and active forum for engaging legal scholarship above and beyond the articles in our traditional print edition,” says Volume 50 Editor in Chief Lars Torleif Reed. For example, Dean Steven W. Bender from Seattle University School of Law spoke at the Law Review’s 2016 Symposium, Disjointed Regulation: State Efforts to Legalize Marijuana, and published his article “The Colors of Cannabis: Race and Marijuana” in the December 2016 print issue. The new online edition allowed him to reflect on the implications of the 2016 elections in a follow-up piece. It will also allow scholars to respond to pieces in both the print and online journals without the time delay of print publishing.

The Law Review launched its online edition along with its completely redesigned website, Reed, Projects Editors Parnian Vafaeenia and Andrew Aaronian, and Managing Editor Markie Jorgensen developed the online journal and website along with the School of Law’s Senior Graphic Designer Sam Sellers and Web Application Developer Jason Aller. The editors and members of the UC Davis Law Review will staff both the print and online editions.

Authors who wish to publish in the UC Davis Law Review Online should submit through Scholastica or by emailing (Scholastica is strongly preferred.)


November 4, 2016

Presenting a Paper on the Future of Legal Education

Earlier this week, I visited Loyola University Chicago law school and presented a paper to faculty and students on the future of legal education.

The paper, titled "Some Thoughts on the Future of Legal Education: Why Diversity and Student Wellness Should Matter in a Time of 'Crisis,'"was originally presented as part of the Mitchell Lecture series at Buffalo law school last spring. My paper, in a nutshell, contends that in this time of economic "crisis" for law schools, we should not forget the fact that much remains to be done (1) to improve faculty and student diversity (as well as the diversity of the legal profession); and (2) to ensure that law schools do all that they can do to ensure student wellness during and after law school.  In talking about these issues, I mention recent positive developments at UC Davis School of Law.

March 11, 2016

Professor Peter Lee Receives 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award

Congratulations to Professor Peter Lee, recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award! The honor, made possible through the generosity of Bill and Sally Rutter, was presented at the "Celebrating King Hall" event last night at the ARC Ballroom on the UC Davis campus.

Professor Lee receives the award from Dean Kevin R. Johnson.

Professor Lee addresses attendees at "Celebrating King Hall."

For more photos from the event, visit the School of Law's Facebook album and Instagram.

February 5, 2016

UC Davis Law Review, Volume 49, Issue 3

The editors of the UC Davis Law Review just sent this message to the law faculty. The new issue looks outstanding. Congratulations to the UC Davis Law Review!

Dear King Hall Faculty,

We invite you to read the UC Davis Law Review, Volume 49, Issue 3, at Please see the linked table of contents below. We are particularly fortunate that Professor Donna Shestowsky contributed our lead article, which is also featured on our home page,

We hope that you will consider submitting your manuscripts to us when we open later this month, and that you will encourage your colleagues to submit theirs. Thank you for all of the support you give us!


The UC Davis Law Review

UC Davis Law Review • Vol. 49, No. 3, February 2016






January 8, 2016

King Hall Faculty at AALS Annual Meeting 2016

I am at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting at the New York Hilton Midtown.

Here is a rundown of the panels in which King Hall faculty members are speakers or moderators.

"The ADA at 25: Implications for People with Mental Disabilities"
Speaker from a Call for Papers: Jasmine E. Harris
Topic: "I take up the question of what remains to be done in an area that the ADA has not (and perhaps could not) reach: state regulation of sexual expression of people with mental disabilities."

"Service: Challenge, Opportunity and Passion" and "Teaching and Outsider Status"
Plenary Session at the Workshop for Pretenured Faculty of Color
Speaker: Kevin R. Johnson

"Indian Tribes, Same-Sex Marriage, and LGBT Families"
Speaker: Rose Cuison Villazor
Topic: Marriage Equality in American Samoa

"Animal Rights: From Why to How"
Speaker: Angela P. Harris
Topic: "What can the animal rights movement learn from other social movements seeking racial equality, rights for women, LGBT individuals, indigenous peoples, and individuals with disabilities?"

"Transactional Lawyering and Contractual Innovation"
Moderator: Afra Afsharipour

I just posted an entry about these and other King Hall-related activities at AALS (including an alumni reception and our faculty members in leadership positions) over on the Dean's Blog.

March 2, 2015

How Prospective Law Students Can Make Better Use of the U.S. News Law School Rankings That Are About to Be Released

Co-authored with Dean Kevin R. Johnson. Cross-posted from Justia's Verdict.

Over the next month or two, tens of thousands of admitted applicants will make decisions about which law schools to attend. One tool that many will no doubt use to guide their decisions is the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, which will be released in a little over a week. Many analysts criticize the methodology (or various aspects of it) that U.S. News employs to rate law schools (and some folks doubt whether all the nation's law schools could ever be meaningfully graded according to any single set of criteria.) But, for the time being at least, U.S. News remains the most looked-at, and seemingly influential, ranking system out there. For that reason, in the space below we offer-based on our collective experience in both evaluating other law schools and having our own law school evaluated-five pieces of advice for making the most sophisticated use of the rankings that U.S. News is poised to unveil.

#1: The Importance of Trends: Remember That Each Year's Rankings Capture a Snapshot in Time

The rankings that are set for release on March 10 present a great deal of raw and processed information, but they data they contain-and the bottom-line rankings they assign-represent only a snapshot in time. Any sensible consumer of the rankings should look not just at one year's result, but at a longer track record, perhaps attaching more weight to a five-year average rather than to any single year's numbers.

To be sure, sometimes there is, as to a particular law school or type of law school, a clear trend line-in particular components within the ranking or as to the bottom-line performance - and it may be important to try to discern what accounts for any such consistent assent or decline. More commonly, a school may bounce around somewhat because of short-term factors, such as a bad year in passing the bar and/or placing graduates in jobs, or an anomalous drop in application volume or quality due to some administrative gaffe or regional downturn. Such volatility is itself a basis on which the U.S. News rankings are often criticized-how much could a school's overall quality really change within the space of a year?-but taking a somewhat longer view may partially address that criticism and make the bottom-line ratings more meaningful.

In looking at changes over time, it is important to realize that certain parts of the U.S. News evaluations very rarely move much from year to year. This would include a school's reputation rank among other law professors who are surveyed (which accounts for 25% of a school's overall ranking) and its reputation rank among lawyers and judges who are polled (which accounts for 15% of the overall result). The relative quality (compared to other schools) of a school's student body-as judged by median LSAT scores, college GPAs, and the school's acceptance rate-also has tended, as an historical matter, not to change tremendously in a single year (but rather evolves much more gradually), but this factor has itself become a bit more volatile in recent years as the national decline in application volume has hit some schools harder than others. Other factors, such as the percentage of graduates who are placed in law-related jobs at or nine or ten months after graduation, bar pass rates, and dollars-per-student spent by a school (more on that later), have tended to fluctuate much more, and thus may account more for the year-to-year changes in bottom-line rankings.

One might argue that the parts of the U.S. News survey that are more stable are more reliable and thus should be taken more seriously than the overall rankings. There is something to that, but even these stable components have been open to significant criticism. The response rate by lawyers and judges who are polled has often been quite low, and the integer-based scale (ranging from 1 to 5) on which law professors, lawyers and judges are asked to place schools is not sufficiently finely grained for people to draw the kind of nuanced distinctions that the U.S. News rankings purport to depict overall. Moreover, it may be that larger law schools, with more graduates, may have an easier time making a positive impression on judges and lawyers, simply because members of the bench and bar may be more likely to encounter recent alums of schools that pump out more graduates. (There are other, smaller aspects of the U.S. News methodology-such as student-faculty ratios-that might tend to inadequately reward economies of scale and thus favor small schools.)

#2 The U.S. News Data Is Necessarily Limited in Scope

In addition to being limited in time, the data that U.S. News employs and presents every year is limited in scope. Among the data that it ignores is how diverse a law school's faculty or student body is. We have argued (in an earlier series of online columns) that this information concerning racial/ethnic (and perhaps other kinds) of diversity ought to be incorporated into the rankings. Most law school faculty and administrators around the country believe that diversity within a school is a helpful plus in a world where graduates are going to encounter and serve clients of various different backgrounds. Yet U.S. News has declined to include a diversity component in its overall scoring (although it separately presents raw data as to racial diversity). As we have explained before, the main reason U.S. News has offered for not including diversity-that some schools are located in places where diversity is harder to accomplish-simply doesn't wash. Some schools are located in places where there are fewer high-LSAT performers in the community, yet we still include median LSAT as a rankings input because we think a law school student body's LSAT performance is a relevant characteristic. If, as the Supreme Court has held and as most people in academia believe, a diverse school is pedagogically better than a less diverse school, all other things being equal, then we should develop a way to have diversity count for at least something when we evaluate and rate schools. In the meantime, prospective students can find helpful data on each school at the ABA "Standard 509" website.

#3. Distributions Within Each Law School Student Body

While we are talking about the makeup of the student body of each law school (which many prospective students would find an important factor since law students often learn from, and are judged by the outside world by, the company they keep), we should point out that the data that U.S. News weighs most heavily-median LSATs and GPAs-while relevant to an assessment of student-body academic strength, itself can mask important differences within each student body. Two law schools may have similar medians, but they may have very different LSAT scores and GPAs at the 75th and 25th percentiles within their student bodies. Let us compare, for example, using 2014 data, Northwestern and Cornell, both excellent law schools with undeniably strong student bodies. Northwestern's LSAT median was a 168, and its median college GPA was a 3.75. Cornell's were a bit lower on both-a 167 and a 3.68. But Cornell's 25th percentile LSAT and GPA were somewhat higher than Northwestern's (166/3.55 compared to 162/3.53). How could the school with higher medians have lower numbers at the 25th percentile? There could be a number of possible explanations. Northwestern may prefer applicants who have either a very high LSAT or a very high GPA (sometimes known as "splitters"), whereas Cornell may prefer people who were reasonably (but not quite as) high on both metrics. Perhaps Northwestern's 25th percentile LSAT is lower because it has enrolled more students who have been out of college for a longer period of time, in which case LSAT scores may be less important than real-world accomplishment. Or maybe some different reason altogether.

We are not suggesting here that having medians that diverge from a school's 25th percentile numbers is inherently problematic (although it might be problematic for law schools that, unlike Cornell and Northwestern, have many low LSAT performers and that may have low bar pass rates); instead, we are simply saying that when an applicant is looking at the student bodies of schools in which s/he is interested, it may make sense to look at more than medians. We note, in this regard, that the ABA "Standard 509 Report" website has a good tool that enables users to search and compare law schools along these axes.

We should add that if critics believe that U.S. News creates a perverse incentive for schools to admit "splitters" (perverse in the sense that pedagogical considerations would otherwise incline these schools to admit folks who present reasonably strong LSAT scores and GPAs instead), there might be ways to tweak the U.S. News student-quality formula, but any such changes could create other incentives or disincentives about which other observers might complain.

#4. Looking Behind the Employment Numbers

Two final observations warrant mention. First, one of the most volatile-and thus influential as to many schools' rankings in a given year-factors in U.S. News is the percentage of graduates who have a full-time, long-term, law-related job ten months after graduation. Certainly a school's ability to help place its graduates is an important factor in any decision about where to attend law school. But note, importantly, that the percentage employed in full-time, long-term, law-related jobs does not by itself convey any information about the particular type of jobs a school's graduates are getting. U.S. News does not present or make use of salary data (although it did decades ago); it does not break jobs down by geography; as of last year it did not even tell consumers how many jobs are funded by the graduate's law school or home university. We should add that some law school- or university-funded jobs are quite meaningful and reasonably paid, whereas others are less so. In any event, here too, the ABA provides much more finely grained data on job type and salary; applicants should consult the web page on which the ABA collects and presents the employment surveys for all ABA-approved schools.

#5. Follow (or at Least Examine) the Money

Finally, speaking of money, we should point out that there is one factor in U.S. News as to which the underlying data and the use to which U.S. News puts it are harder to see and thus harder to analyze, and that is the so-called "faculty resources" component that looks at "average fiscal expenditures per student for instruction, library and supporting services." This inscrutable factor accounts for about 10% of a school's overall score and often determines where a school lands within a bunched-up grouping. For example, if one looked at all the other major U.S. News components-peer academic assessment, lawyer/judges assessment, median LSATs/GPAs, acceptance rates, placement rates, bar pass rates, student-faculty ratio, etc.-Yale should be tied with, or even slightly behind Harvard. And yet Yale consistently beats Harvard for the top spot in the rankings by a non-trivial margin; last year it was four overall score points out of a possible 100. And this difference seems likely accounted for by the fact that Yale spends more-although precisely how much more is hard to know-per student than any other school by a significant margin.

Now four points out of 100 in the U.S. News overall score may not seem like a lot, but given how bunched up schools are, four points can be a big deal. (Yale's four-point lead over Harvard last year was four times larger than Harvard's lead over #3 Stanford, and four points farther down the scale was all that separated #29 from #42.) And Yale's perch atop U.S. News every single year for over two decades likely accounts for its qualitatively better yield among admitted applicants than that of any other law school, thus enabling Yale essentially to have first choice among the applicant pool. (Yale these days admits only around 250 people to get 200 to attend, generating a yield of about 80%, compared to Harvard's yield of about 60%, which itself is much higher than the yields of almost all other top law schools.)

To say that expenditures-per-student can have these important consequences on a school's ranking and its yield is not to imply that this spending criterion is illegitimate. But one cannot help wondering: if the additional spending-per-student isn't elevating placement rates or lowering student-faculty ratios, or allowing a school to obtain a faculty that is seen by other law professors as superior to that of other schools (and all of these are already measured directly and counted by the ranking system), precisely why should the money matter so much? The U.S. News methodology may result in double-counting of many considerations, but dollars spent may be a particularly problematic example. Yet there may be responses: perhaps Yale's resources don't increase its placement rate, but affect the kinds of jobs its graduates are able to obtain. For example, maybe its resources allow more students to undertake their own original research, which leads to more jobs in the academy. And so forth. Again, as with most other features of the U.S. News rankings that we've discussed above, our goal here is not so much to provide definitive answers as to cause students to think a bit more critically as they consume the bottom-line ordinal rankings for which U.S. News is best known.

January 30, 2015

California’s Water Law Symposium–A Law Student Success Story

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

The 11th Annual Water Law Symposium was held last weekend at Golden Gate University Law School in San Francisco.  The event drew a standing-room-only crowd of water law scholars, practitioners and policymakers, who devoted the day to a thoughtful and lively examination of how California’s constitutional law doctrine of reasonable use affects all facets of water rights in the state.

To be sure, a multitude of environmental and natural resource law-themed conferences are held every year in California and around the U.S.  But the Water Law Symposium is special, for several related reasons.

First and foremost, Northern California law students are the Symposium’s sole creators and organizers – it’s exclusively a law student production.  While some of us law professor types serve as advisors to the students planning the event, the burden has been fully on the law student organizers to make the Symposium the resounding success that it’s become.

Second, the Water Law Symposium is a unique collaboration of law students from six Northern California law schools – Golden Gate, Berkeley Law, Hastings College of the Law, University of San Francisco, UC Davis (King Hall) and the McGeorge School of Law.  Traditionally, students from different law schools have little contact with one another; if they interact at all, it’s in inter-school moot court competitions.  But the Symposium dramatically breaks that mold, with students from all six schools collaborating closely and well in furtherance of a common purpose: that the annual Symposium excels.

And excel it does.  In a relatively short period of time, the Water Law Symposium has emerged as California’s premier water law and policy event.  Not surprisingly, the Symposium’s resounding success has received national notice and acclaim: a few years ago, the American Bar Association bestowed on the Symposium its award for the best law-student organized event in the entire United States.

Anyone interested in California water law and policy should make plans to attend the 12th annual Water Law Symposium in early 2016.  In the meantime, kudos to the dedicated law students of Northern California, whose collaborative efforts have produced a yearly event of sustained excellence.

September 27, 2013

Angela Harris Festschrift

Professor Angela Harris's former colleagues at Berkeley Law are celebrating her incredible work with a daylong conference today.

Professor Harris is one of the nation's foremost scholars in the fields of critical race theory, feminist legal theory, and civil rights. She joined the King Hall faculty from UC Berkeley School of Law in 2011.

Here is the program for today's Festschrift:

Welcome / Opening Remarks

  • Melissa Murray (Berkeley Law)
  • Acting Dean Gillian Lester (Berkeley Law)

Panel 1: Feminist Legal Theory

  • Kathryn Abrams (Berkeley Law) Moderator
  • Mary Anne Franks (University of Miami)
  • Priscilla Ocen (Loyola LA)
  • Camille Gear Rich (USC)
  • Madhavi Sunder (UC Davis)

Panel 2: Race and Criminal Justice

  • David Sklansky (Berkeley Law) Moderator
  • Mario Barnes (UC Irvine)
  • Aya Gruber (Colorado)
  • Cynthia Lee (GWU)
  • L. Song Richardson (Iowa)

Lunch and Keynote Address

  • Keynote Speaker: Dean Rachel Moran (UCLA)

Panel 3: Economic and Environmental Justice

  • Robin Lenhardt (Fordham) Moderator
  • Tucker Culbertson (Syracuse)
  • Sheila Foster (Fordham)
  • Trina Jones (Duke)
  • Emma Coleman Jordan (Georgetown)
  • Angela Onwuachi-Willig (Iowa)

Closing Remarks

  • Angela Harris

Reception with Alumni and Festschrift Guests

Dinner (with remarks by Dean Kevin R. Johnson, UC Davis)

November 10, 2011

Call for Papers: Tribute to Keith Aoki

UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal

Volume 17

Call for Submissions: 

Tributes in Remembrance of UC Davis Law Professor Keith Aoki

The UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal is currently seeking original pieces in tribute of UC Davis Law Professor Keith Aoki for publication in Volume 17.  Professor Aoki was an activist and prolific legal scholar, having contributed to a variety of fields, including Asian American issues, critical race, property, local law, immigration, and intellectual property. Pieces may reflect upon Professor Aoki's impact in these fields of law or upon his personal impact and legacy as an artist, professor, scholar, friend, and mentor.

Submissions should be written in the form of a short editorial. Relevant references and connections to Asian Pacific American issues are highly encouraged, such as, but not limited to, critical responses centering on themes of affirmative action, higher education admissions, the model minority myth, race and legal education/academia, etc. 

Please limit responses to 2,000 words, double-spaced with 1-inch margins, in 12 point Times New Roman font. However, the Editorial Board will not enforce a strict word limit. Submissions must be e-mailed in Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF format to with Vol. 17 Submission: Tribute to Keith Aoki in the subject line.  Any footnotes should follow The Bluebook Uniform System of Citation.  Please submit responses no later than December 1st, 2011. If you have questions regarding the submission or slating process, please e-mail

Established in 1991, the UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal (APALJ) is one of only two law journals in the nation that focuses exclusively on the legal, social, and political issues affecting Asian Pacific American communities.  APALJ provides a forum for legal scholars, practitioners, and students to discuss emerging issues affecting South Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian, and Pacific Islander communities in the United States.  APALJ publishes written work regarding these issues for dissemination to the general public.  Through publication, APALJ hopes to move Asian American jurisprudence in a direction that will aid Asian Pacific Americans in their struggles.