Center for Litigation and Courts Takes Flight

event launch photo with Scott Dodson at the podium and a crowd watching

UC Hastings today officially launches its new Center for Litigation and Courts, a nonpartisan effort to expand knowledge of civil litigation, alternative dispute resolution, and the courts.

The impetus for creating the center was to fill a gap in the study of civil litigation, alternative dispute resolution, and the courts and to bring that knowledge to the bench, the bar, the legal academy, and the public, says founding Director Scott Dodson.

“I am tremendously excited to be a part of this new center,” Dodson said. “I’m particularly interested in building bridges between different audiences. Practitioners, judges, academics, and the public can be pretty siloed. My hope is that the center will develop lines of communication and information-sharing among these groups.”

The center has already embarked on several scholarly projects since it received its charter in February, including a study of the U.S. Supreme Court’s secretive rulemaking process.

The center also submitted a public comment in July to the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States urging more transparency in the rulemaking process. As part of its advocacy function, the center will weigh in on issues relating to litigation and the courts through amicus briefs and government testimony.

Other activities include:

  • Publishing The Judges’ Book, an annual summary of top scholarship from UC Hastings faculty pertinent to the bench and mailing it to judges across the state and country.
  • Conducting moot court sessions for lawyers to help them prepare for appellate oral arguments.
  • Hosting a podcast, Litigation Briefs: Media Shorts on Law and Courts. Each 20-minute interview-based episode takes a particular issue before the courts and distills it for a lay audience.
  • Housing the UC Hastings Trial Team. Coached by Professor Geoffrey Hansen, the trial team course prepares students for competitions that judge how well participants give opening and closing statements and examine witnesses.
  • Producing the Litigation Careers video series. Through interviews with alumni, students can learn more about what life is like in various litigation careers.

Dodson, who is the James Edgar Hervey Chair in Litigation and the Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings, says the school’s tradition of excellence in the field of civil litigation makes it well-positioned to host an influential center.

Dodson, an expert in civil procedure and the federal courts, is part of a long line of high-profile faculty members who have made their mark. Former Chancellor and Dean Mary Kay Kane was a major force in producing the flagship treatise on federal civil procedure and served as an academic member of the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, where she helped revise and rewrite dozens of rules. Professor Richard Marcus has authored several volumes of the Wright & Miller Federal Practice & Procedure treatise and has played a key role in drafting amendments to the federal rules of civil procedure, including amendments to the class action rule and the rules of discovery.

UC Hastings alumni have also played prominent roles in the civil legal system and the courts, including California Supreme Court Associate Justices Carol A. Corrigan, Marvin Baxter, and Wiley Manuel; prominent plaintiff’s attorney Joseph Cotchett; and Andrew Downey Orrick of the global law firm now known as Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.

The center’s advisory board includes U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila; ADR neutral and former judge Richard S. Flier; prominent litigators Kelly Matayoshi, Dena Sharp, and Claude Stern; and Elise Traynum, General Counsel of ACLU of Northern California.

Chancellor and Dean David Faigman, who spoke at the launch party along with Judge Daniel Bress of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, says the center is an important addition to the school’s array of centers and programs that create opportunities for students and practitioners to collaborate.

“I am very excited at the founding of the Center for Litigation and Courts,” Faigman said. “Much of my career has been devoted to promoting an understanding of scientific evidence and I’ve had the privilege of presenting on that subject to various groups of lawyers, as well as to state and federal judges. That experience has made clear to me the value of bringing scholars together with lawyers and judges to advance the cause of justice. At UC Hastings we are proud of the service we provide to the profession and the center is a sterling example of our commitment to that effort.”