Kevin Johnson Gains 3rd Term as Law Dean

Quick Summary

  • Provost Hexter says School of Law has achieved “points of pride deserving of the highest praise”
  • School has majority-minority faculty and ranks in top 10 in student diversity
  • Johnson is longest-serving dean among those now in office at UC Davis

Kevin R. Johnson has been reappointed as dean of the School of Law, a position he has held since 2008. The university’s longest-serving dean among those now in office will start his third five-year term on July 1.

Kevin Johnson mugshot

Johnson’s “deep knowledge of the many facets of law and legal education, his vision, his energy and his passionate devotion to advancing excellence at UC Davis will continue to be invaluable assets in the years ahead,” Ralph J. Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor, wrote in a letter announcing Johnson’s reappointment by Chancellor Gary S. May.

“Under Kevin’s leadership, and building upon the excellence of the faculty and students of King Hall, the stature of the law school and UC Davis have been greatly enhanced.”

The School of Law has achieved “points of pride deserving of the highest praise,” Hexter wrote, noting Johnson’s commitment to diversity, which has helped King Hall faculty and students reach key milestones.

Diverse faculty and student body

During Johnson’s service as dean, King Hall became the only leading American law school with a majority-minority faculty. The School of Law also ranks in the national top 10 in student diversity, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report ratings. It is the only law school in U.S. News’ overall top 40 to crack the top 10 in diversity. The law school’s King Hall Outreach Program (KHOP) and First Generation Advocates initiative help facilitate greater access to education for underrepresented communities.

“It is a privilege and an honor to serve as dean of a law school named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a majority-minority faculty committed to excellence and diversity, and a special community of students, staff, alums, faculty and friends,” Johnson said. “I thank that community, as well as Chancellor May and Provost Hexter, for the opportunity.”

Recent faculty hires have furthered King Hall’s tradition of robust scholarship, with faculty members’ papers appearing in such leading law publications as the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Columbia Law Review and NYU Law Review. The School of Law ranks in the top 25 in U.S. News’ peer-reputation category.

Under Johnson’s stewardship, the law school established the Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies, the California Environmental Law and Policy Center, the California International Law Center, the Water Justice Clinic and the Tribal Justice Project.

King Hall renovation, expansion

Johnson helped lead a major capital campaign to renovate and expand King Hall in a project completed in 2010 and continues to spearhead highly successful fundraising efforts.

He’s also helped increase the law school’s visibility, and alumni pride and engagement, through prominent public events at King Hall — such as real-life sessions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, California Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals.

An internationally recognized scholar in the fields of immigration law and policy, refugee law and civil rights, Johnson often is cited in immigration court cases. Leading media outlets regularly seek his insights on immigration law in the Trump era. With Johnson’s strong support, King Hall’s law clinics have bolstered their own profiles, advocating for some of the most vulnerable participants in the legal system, from prisoners in civil rights cases to immigrants without access to legal services.

Johnson, the Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law, and professor of Chicana/o Studies, joined the UC Davis law faculty in 1989, and received the law school’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1993. He became associate dean for academic affairs in 1998.

Books and blogs

A prolific writer, Johnson has published extensively on immigration law and civil rights. His book How Did You Get to be Mexican? A White/Brown Man’s Search for Identity earned a nomination for the 2000 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. His 2011 book, Immigration Law and the U.S.-Mexico Border, was named best reference book in the International Latino Book Awards presented by Latino Literacy Now. Johnson blogs at ImmigrationProf and is a regular contributor on immigration for SCOTUSblog.

In addition to his academic writing, Johnson chronicles daily life at King Hall and the many events he attends off campus on the Dean’s Blog. He rarely misses lectures given by the law faculty, visiting scholars, alumni and students.

A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, Johnson earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics at UC Berkeley, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked as an attorney at the international law firm of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe.

Johnson has served on the board of directors of Legal Services of Northern California since 1996, and as board president since 2003. From 2006 to 2011, he served on the board of directors of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the leading Mexican American civil rights organization in the United States.

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