Boalt Hall, Today and Yesterday

Law Program's History Is Now Available in Print

Twenty years of research culminate in the publication of Sandra P. Epstein's new book, "Law at Berkeley: The History of Boalt Hall." Published by the campus's Institute of Governmental Studies Press, the work presents an historic overview of Berkeley's School of Law, Boalt Hall.

Epstein, who received her PhD from the Graduate School of Education here in 1979, did her doctoral dissertation on the history of the law school, from its humble beginnings to its current status as one of the premier law schools in the nation.

Encouraged by then-dean Stanford Kadish, Epstein chronicled Boalt Hall's coming-of-age, organizing and preserving the vast amount of documentation that had come into existence over the years.

Current dean Herma Hill Kay further encouraged Epstein to bring her dissertation up to date. Epstein worked with associate dean Lujuana Treadwell to put it in publishable form.

The law program at Berkeley had its origins in the 1878 founding of the first UC law school, Hastings School of Law. Atop a stagecoach, Judge Sarranus Clinton Hastings formulated his plans for a law college, discussing them with William Carey Jones, secretary to university President LeConte.

By 1894, the UC Board of Regents wrote to Berkeley President Kellogg "that the branch of study now...constituting a part of the courses in the Department of History and Political Science, be separated from that department and formed into a new department embracing: (1) Constitutional Law of the United States, (2) International Law, (3) Roman Law, and (4) Jurisprudence." Berkeley's law school was born.

In 1906, philanthropist Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt presented the university with two parcels of land in San Francisco. Her request to the regents was to sell the properties and use $100,000 of the proceeds for the construction of a building on the Berkeley campus, to honor her late husband, John Henry Boalt. The "Boalt Law Building" was intended solely to house the Department of Jurisprudence.

After all the planning was done, however, the total projected expense for the new building (which still stands, but as Durant Hall across from California Hall) exceeded Mrs. Boalt's bequest by $50,000.

Professor George Boke suggested that the balance could be raised by soliciting the lawyers of California, and he assumed responsibility for the project. The state's lawyers were canvassed and came through, including Napa County Lawyers who specified that its pledge would be paid "after the harvesting of the raisin crop."

The first seven courses were initially taught by only one professor. Today, Boalt Hall has a faculty of more than 70 and a course selection of over 100 classes dealing with such diverse topics as "Feminist Theory and the Welfare State" and "Institutional and Legal Aspects of International Telecommunications."

Epstein examines the roles that the various deans have played in the history of the law school. William Carey Jones became the first dean in 1912 and oversaw the strengthening of requirements and the movement of the school from undergraduate to graduate study. He also helped organize the "California Law Review," the first such publication west of Illinois, which exists to this day.

Dean William Prosser, an extremely intelligent and eccentric man, marked a period of significant accomplishment for the law school. Ultimately, his deanship came up for the usual five-year review and an outraged Prosser resigned.

"This law school is governed and operated," he wrote, "as to all decisions of any consequence whatever, by a town meeting, of which I am the moderator. This, of course, is faculty self-government, which is a fetish in this University beyond all others. It is democracy in action. It is also one hell of a way to run a railroad."

Epstein writes that "By every measure, Boalt Hall remains in the top tier of American law schools."

Her message that the law school and the state of California can serve as effective partners in the teaching and creation of knowledge rings clear.



Copyright 1997, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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