Monday, March 23, 2009

Dean Koh Nominated as Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State


President Barack Obama today announced his intent to nominate Dean Harold Hongju Koh to be The Legal Adviser of the United States Department of State.

The Office of the Legal Adviser furnishes advice on all legal issues, domestic and international, arising in the course of the Department's work. This includes assisting Department principals and policy officers in formulating and implementing the foreign policies of the United States, and promoting the development of international law and its institutions as a fundamental element of those policies. The Legal Adviser is appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and heads an office at present comprising nearly 200 government attorney-advisers, who have special responsibilities regarding the handling of international legal issues arising in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations, as well as for promoting respect for and the development of international law and institutions as a fundamental element of U.S. foreign policy.

If confirmed, Koh will resign as Dean of the Law School and will take a public service leave from his professorship. Koh has served as Dean of Yale Law School since 2004, and has taught at the Law School since 1985.

In a message to the YLS Community announcing his plans, Koh wrote:

“Over these past five years, no dean could have been luckier: in my remarkable faculty colleagues; in the spectacular students who have taught me so much; in the loyal alumni who have supported us so generously; in the dedicated staff—particularly my fellow deans and friends in the Dean’s Office—who have shared my love for this place; and in the rare opportunity to serve at this great university under President Levin’s inspired leadership.”

“But from my first day as Dean, I have spoken of Yale Law School’s abiding commitments to public service, globalization, and the profession,” Koh continued. “I have urged my students to live their lives as lawyers by using their passion and training to build a better world. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have now offered me an opportunity to live those commitments myself, by joining their effort to help our country live up to its own best standards and principles.”

Yale University President Rick Levin has appointed Professor Kate Stith to serve as Acting Dean while Koh prepares for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Stith, who is the Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law, will begin serving as Acting Dean immediately. She will continue to serve as Acting Dean until a search process is completed and a successor is appointed.

Professor Stith teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law and procedure, comparative criminal law, criminal sentencing, federal criminal prosecution, university governance, government ethics, and congressional budget law. Prior to joining the faculty at Yale, Professor Stith was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where she prosecuted white-collar and organized-crime cases. Her book on the federal sentencing guidelines, Fear of Judging (with J.A. Cabranes), was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the ABA in 1999. A graduate of Dartmouth College, the Kennedy School of Government, and Harvard Law School, she clerked for Judge Carl McGowan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and for Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White.

In accepting this assignment, Professor Stith said: “Yale Law School is an extraordinary institution that continues to thrive even in this challenging time. Its faculty and staff operate at the highest standards of excellence and professionalism while maintaining their commitment to the individual and to the community. Our students take full advantage of the School’s manifold opportunities for intellectual engagement and public service. In his five years as Dean, Harold Koh has greatly nurtured the spirit of excellence and humanity that characterizes the School, and I look forward to working closely with faculty, staff, and students to ensure that this spirit and these accomplishments continue in this time of transition.”

“I love Yale Law School and am torn to leave it,” Koh said. “I take comfort that the School’s leadership will be in Kate Stith’s capable hands. No one knows the School better, loves it more, or better understands where we are and what challenges currently face us. She will preserve the School’s values and maintain its momentum in these testing times.”

Read the White House press release announcing President Obama's intent to nominate Koh