Law Dean Named

January 31, 2007
Levi: from chief judge to Duke dean

Levi: from chief judge to Duke dean. Jon Gardiner

David F. Levi, Chief U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of California and a national leader in legal reform and civil procedure, has been named the next dean of Duke Law School. Levi succeeds Katharine T. Bartlett, who will step down at the end of the academic year to return to teaching and scholarship after seven years as dean.

Levi is "a leader with broad intellectual interests and a thoughtful, academic temperament," says Provost Peter Lange. Levi was universally praised during the search process for his wisdom and judgment, his substantial administrative experience, and his deep understanding of and connections within the legal community nationwide, he says.

Levi cites "the exceptional momentum" of Duke's law school as a critical factor in his decision to leave the federal bench—"a career choice of some magnitude."

"It is a privilege to join a law school of the first rank that is imbued with a sense of optimism and purpose, within a university that places an emphasis on knowledge in the service of society," he says.

Following graduation from Stanford Law School in 1980, Levi clerked for Ben C. Duniway, a judge with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and then for Lewis F. Powell, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He joined the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California as a prosecutor in 1983 and was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District in 1986. He managed an office of more than fifty lawyers and supervised one of the largest investigations of public corruption in California history, leading to the prosecution of several California state legislators for bribery and extortion. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed Levi a federal district judge. Levi became chief judge in May 2003.

Long recognized as a leader in legal reform, Levi was appointed by former Chief Justice William Rehnquist to the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1994 and became chair of the committee in 2000. Three years later, Rehnquist appointed Levi to chair the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, which oversees all federal rule-making conducted by the Judicial Conference, the body charged with revising and crafting rules and practices for approval by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Levi's father, the late Edward H. Levi, served as dean of the University of Chicago Law School and then as that university's president, before being appointed U.S. attorney general by President Gerald Ford in 1975.