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Wayne Law dean steps down

Law professor John Rothchild will serve in Robert Ackerman’s place until interim dean is chosen

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Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 12:00 pm, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

Wayne State Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Ronald T. Brown informed the WSU employee list serve in a Nov. 1 email that Law School Dean Robert Ackerman “has announced that he will not seek reappointment to another five-year term.”

Ackerman’s decision to return to the university as a full-time professor in fall 2013 will take effect Nov. 28 in conjunction with the school’s final day of classes.

According to the Wayne Law Marketing and Communications Director Carol Baldwin, Ackerman is stepping down in favor of “ramping up his scholarship” as well as joining the faculty full time. Ackerman has written extensively in the fields of torts, dispute resolution, communitarian theory and civic responsibility, and his scholarship has appeared in a wide variety of high profile publications.

Baldwin elaborated on Ackerman’s decision, saying he “also has a few nagging health concerns — nothing life-threatening, I’m glad to say.

“He had one hip replacement this summer, and the surgery went beautifully, but now he finds he must take care of the other side,” she said.

In his announcement email, Brown lauded Ackerman’s contributions during his time as dean.

“I am grateful for the nearly five years of service Dean Ackerman has provided to the university,” Brown wrote. “During his tenure, he has led the Law School in the development of a new Transnational Environmental Law Clinic, an Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic and a Program for International Legal Studies. He has secured funding for Public Interest Law Fellowships, and has assisted in strengthening the Law School’s faculty by hiring a number of outstanding legal scholars and practitioners. Just over a year ago, Dean Ackerman presided over the grand opening ceremony for the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, a project he and a number of Wayne Law faculty members, alumni and friends helped make a reality.”

Following his stint as a professor of Dickinson School of Law at Penn State, Ackerman became Wayne Law’s 10th dean in May 2008. He also served as director of the school’s Center for Dispute Resolution at a time when the center was the nation’s seventh-ranked law school dispute resolution program.

Ackerman is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and magna cum laude graduate of Colgate University. He served as dean and professor of law at Willamette University College of Law from July 1996 to May 1999. He has lectured at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, the University of Vienna School of Law, the Penn State University College of Medicine and Leicester Polytechnic School of Law (now De Montfort University).

Outside of academia, Ackerman has also worked for the Denver firm of Holme Roberts & Owen as well as the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project. Additionally, he is a founding member of Mediators Beyond Borders, and has worked on development projects in Tanzania with Penn State’s InterInstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge. He has also served as chair of the AALS Section on Law and Communitarian Studies.

In addition to his service as dean and professor at WSU, Ackerman has also been very involved on campus in terms of extracurricular activities. He serves on Labor@Wayne’s internal advisory board, as WSU’s faculty athletic representative, and on the Institute of Continuing Legal Education’s executive committee. His one-year term as chair of ICLE’s executive committee ended in June 2010.

“You know, he came here as our dean — he was never associated with the university before,” professor Alan Schenk said. “Based on the devotion and commitment he’s shown to Wayne State, you would think he spent his academic career here.”

Schenk, distinguished professor of law,

has been on WSU’s faculty for 46 years, and

as a result, has been witness to every dean of

Wayne Law except for its first.

“In all of my years at the law school, never have we had such an array of activities day-to-day or such an expansion of diverse student groups who are active in city-oriented projects,” Schenk said. “This is a positive development from my perspective, and I attribute this to the energy and devotion to Dean Ackerman.”

Schenk went on to praise Ackerman’s “commitment to diversity, assuring that we have a welcoming environment for all of our students and making sure that this is a vibrant place to work and study.”

While the search begins for a new dean, associate dean and law professor John Rothchild will serve in Ackerman’s place until an interim dean is appointed.

Rothchild has been teaching at WSU since 2001, and his previous experience includes specializing in law enforcement efforts addressing Internet-based fraud and online compliance issues at Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, as well as research and writing as a Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, where he received the Victor H. Kramer Foundation Fellowship.

Prior to this, Rothchild was an associate in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser, representing labor unions and pension plans. He also clerked for Arlin M. Adams, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, from 1986 to 1987.

“The university is launching a national search, and that will continue until we find a suitable candidate,” Baldwin said, discussing Ackerman’s permanent replacement. “A timeline has not been set, nor has a committee been formed at this time.”

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