Human Rights Expert Harold Koh Named Dean of Law School

Yale President Richard C. Levin has announced the appointment of Harold Hongju Koh, an expert on human rights and international law, as dean of Yale Law School. Koh, who has taught at Yale Law School since 1985, served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 1998 to 2001.

“As a scholar, teacher, lawyer and public servant, Harold Koh embodies those qualities that distinguish Yale’s great Law School – a love of learning and a passion for justice,” Levin said. “He is a natural leader who has earned the overwhelming support and confidence of faculty, students, alumni and staff. We all look forward to his stewardship.”

Koh, 48, the Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law, is one of the country’s leading experts on international law, international human rights, national security law and international economic law. He has received more than twenty awards for his human rights work. He was named by American Lawyer magazine in 1997 as one of America’s 45 leading public sector lawyers under the age of 45. In 2000, he was named by A magazine as one of the 100 most influential Asian-Americans of the 1990s.

“It is the greatest honor of my life to be asked to serve as dean of the world’s leading law school,” Koh said. “For four decades I have been privileged to participate in that unique community of commitment to world-class scholarship, public service and professional excellence that Yale Law School represents. I look forward to leading this school I love into a new global century.”

Koh has written more than 80 articles and authored or co-edited “Different But Equal: The Human Rights of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities” (2003); “Transnational Business Problems” (2003); “Deliberative Democracy and Human Rights” (1999); the “Justice Harry Blackmun Supreme Court Oral History” (1995, release date 2004); “Transnational Legal Problems” (1984); and “The National Security Constitution” (1990), which won the American Political Science Association’s award as best book on the American presidency. His current research concerns why nations do or do not obey international law.

A graduate of Harvard College, Oxford and Harvard Law School, Koh served as law clerk to Judge Malcolm Wilkey of the D.C. Circuit, and Justice Harry Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court. Before coming to Yale, he practiced law at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington and Burling and at the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice.

A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Koh is an Honorary Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and has been a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He is an Overseer of Harvard University and on the Visiting Committee of Harvard Law School, an editor of the American Journal of International Law and a member of the American Law Institute. He has received Guggenheim and Century Foundation Fellowships and has been awarded seven honorary doctorates and law school medals from the Villanova Law School and Touro Law School. In 2003, Columbia Law School awarded him the Wolfgang Friedmann Memorial Award for his contributions to international law.

Koh, whose five-year term will begin in July 2004, will succeed Anthony Kronman, who is stepping down after 10 years as dean. “Under his leadership the School has strengthened and deepened, innovative programs have been developed and the facilities have been splendidly renewed,” Levin said of Kronman.

The Koh family came to New Haven in 1961. Koh, his brother, Howard, his mother, Dr. Hesung Chun Koh, and his father, the late Dr. Kwang Lim Koh, were recently named to the K100, the 100 leading Koreans and Korean-Americans in the century of Korean immigration to the United States. His parents and his sister, Jean Koh Peters, have all taught at Yale Law School. Koh lives in New Haven with his wife, Mary-Christy Fisher, an attorney at New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and their children, Emily and William.

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