Harold Koh

Musical Chairs: Harold Koh Steps Down at Yale Law

Harold Koh Yale State.jpgAs we predicted last month, Harold Hongju Koh is stepping down from the deanship at Yale Law School. President Obama is nominating Dean Koh to serve as the Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State. Dean Koh previously served in the State Department, as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, from 1998 to 2001.

Dean Koh is relinquishing his day-to-day deanly duties immediately, to prepare for his upcoming confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If confirmed, he will officially resign as dean, after five years of service. Professor Kate Stith is taking over as Acting Dean of Yale Law School.

When we visited our alma mater back in December, Dean Koh was most gracious and welcoming (even though he has occasionally been on the receiving side of snark here at ATL). We wish Dean Koh well in his new position.

Memos after the jump.

Kate Stith Cabranes Dean Kate Stith.jpgDean Koh’s departure didn’t come as a surprise; we called it last month. If anything, it’s a surprise that it took as long as it did.

But the selection of Professor Stith as acting dean is a little surprising. She’s an excellent teacher — we had her for criminal law — but she isn’t known for a schmoozing, dean-like personality. More people were predicting that Professor Heather Gerken was going to be named.

In any event, congratulations to Professor Stith on her appointment. Will this help Yalies land clerkships with her husband, Judge Jose Cabranes (2d Cir.)?

(Not that they need much help — Judge Cabranes, a Yale Law alum, already hires tons of Yalies.)


March 23, 2009

To: The Yale Law School Community

Dear Friends:

I wanted you to know that today, President Obama is announcing his intent to nominate me as The Legal Adviser of the United States Department of State. If confirmed, I will resign as Dean of Yale Law School and take a public service leave from my professorship. As you will shortly hear from President Levin, an Acting Dean will be appointed immediately to assume my day-to-day duties, while I prepare for an upcoming confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

There is no institution I love more than the Yale Law School. I have had the privilege of teaching here since 1985, and serving as your Dean since 2004. If confirmed, I will step down as Dean. As a professor, I plan to take a leave of absence and to return here to teach again once my public service is over. 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. 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.

We are planning an all-school meeting in the Law School Auditorium tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 2:30 p.m. to introduce the Acting Dean and to answer any questions you might have. I am happy to answer questions about my own situation; the Acting Dean will answer questions about the School. I certainly hope you can attend. Obviously, if you are in class during that time, that should take priority.

For now, I simply wanted to thank you for all you have done for me and my family these past five years. I will miss you. But as you know, New Haven has been my home since 1961, and my family, friends and roots are all here. There is no place like this place. Please know that you will be my source of inspiration and comfort in the months ahead.

With heartfelt thanks and affection,


Harold Hongju Koh

Dean, Yale Law School


To the Law School Community:

All of us at Yale are delighted with the news that President Barack Obama intends to nominate Harold Hongju Koh, Dean of the Law School, to be the 22nd Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State. Throughout his twenty-four years at Yale, Harold Koh has been a leader in the field of international law, and he has been one of the Law School’s most popular teachers. For the past five years, he has served with distinction as Dean. He has demonstrated extraordinary commitment, working tirelessly and effectively on every front. He has brought spirit to every corner of the School, secured resources for its advancement, and pointed it toward 21st century commitments to globalization, public service, closer ties to the profession, and renewal of its faculty and resources. I look forward to a later occasion, after his new appointment is completed, to thank Dean Koh more fully for his outstanding efforts and accomplishments.

To permit Dean Koh to focus on preparation for his important new responsibility, after consultation with a number of senior members of the faculty, I have asked Kate Stith, Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law, to begin serving immediately as Acting Dean of Yale Law School. Upon Dean Koh’s confirmation, she will continue to serve as Acting Dean until a search process is completed and a successor appointed. Professor Stith is a highly respected scholar, teacher, and colleague both at the Law School and in the broader University. She has a deep knowledge of the operation and administration of the Law School, having served as Deputy Dean of the School for three years during the deanship of Anthony T. Kronman, and on the budget and appointments committees under Dean Koh; she currently serves as chair of the Budget Committee. Professor Stith has also worked closely with me and with the Provost’s Office on a variety of matters. Last year, she chaired the faculty committee that is charged every five years with reviewing all aspects of the School’s operation; that committee delivered its detailed assessment of the ‘state of the School’ just a few months ago. I am delighted and grateful that she is willing now to take on this transitional leadership role at the Law School at such an important moment.

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. The principal author of Fear of Judging: Sentencing Guidelines in the Federal Courts, which was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the American Bar Association, she is a leader in developing the field of sentencing law, which is at the intersection of substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, constitutional law, and comparative criminal law. Her current projects include co-authorship of a textbook on federal criminal law and a textbook on criminal procedure. She is an Advisor to the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code: Sentencing project, and previously served, by appointment of the Chief Justice of the United States, on the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure of the U.S. Judicial Conference. She also serves on the board of advisors of several scholarly journals. In 2008 she completed a term of three years as a Fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center, the last two years on the Center’s Executive Committee. She was appointed by the Governor of Connecticut as a member of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, is a past president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, and is the faculty sponsor of the non-partisan Women’s Campaign School at Yale. She is a member of the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations, and served as a Trustee of Dartmouth College for more than a decade.

Kate Stith came to Yale Law School as an Associate Professor of Law in 1985, after having served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where she prosecuted white-collar and organized crime. She previously was on the staff of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, a special assistant to the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, and a law clerk to Judge Carl McGowan of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and to Justice Byron R. White of the U.S. Supreme Court. She became Professor of Law in 1991, and the Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law in 1998. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Harvard Law School.

I know that the entire Law School community will salute Dean Koh as he prepares to make an important contribution to the nation and the world. And I know that you will join me in welcoming Professor Stith to her new role.

Sincerely yours,

Richard C. Levin

(hidden for your protection)

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