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New Yale Law Dean Stresses Standing Up for Rule of Law

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — As the next dean of Yale Law School, Heather Gerken says a key challenge will be figuring how best to stand up for the rule of law.

Gerken, a constitutional law expert, was appointed this week as the 17th dean of the law school and the first woman to serve in the role.

“It’s a hard time right now in politics and law and figuring out how Yale can continue to play a leading role in protecting the value of the rule of law in a turbulent time is one of the major challenges,” Gerken said in an interview.

Since President Donald Trump took office, clinics led by Gerken and other Yale faculty members have taken a leading role in challenging some of his actions. She also served as an adviser to President Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

But Gerken said the values that need defending in today’s political climate are nonpartisan. Among them, she said, are the importance of respectful discussion with the opposing side and respect for constitutional rights and the constitutional process.

“Politics aside, these are values that run deep inside this profession,” she said.

One conversation taking place now inside the law school, she said, is how to protect key values in a way that acknowledges the importance of political viewpoints on both sides.

Gerken will become dean on July 1, succeeding Robert Post, who has led the Ivy League law school since 2009. Gerken, a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Michigan Law School, taught at Harvard before joining the Yale faculty in 2006.

As dean, Gerken plans to continue running a clinic she created on local government law, the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project. It was involved in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration executive order that put “sanctuary cities” on notice that they would lose federal funding if they did not start cooperating with immigration agents.

Her appointment was announced by Yale President Peter Salovey, who called Gerken an “acclaimed educator.”

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