Distinguished U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit Judge Named Dean of Pepperdine University School of Law

Thu Feb 10, 2011 7:01pm EST

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Distinguished U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit Judge Named Dean of Pepperdine University School of Law

Deanell Reece Tacha, a Scandia, Kansas, native with a distinguished career in the federal judiciary and higher education, has been named Dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law. The announcement was made today by Pepperdine University President Andrew K. Benton. She will begin her duties on June 1.

“Devoting more than a quarter century of work to both the public and private sectors, including 25 years of service with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Judge Tacha has had an exemplary career in advancing the rule of law, as well as helping to improve society as a whole through her legal efforts and community service,” said President Benton. “As a former professor and associate dean at the University of Kansas School of Law, Judge Tacha possesses a keen mind for legal education and practice, coupled with solid academic experience.”

“I am humbled and excited about the opportunity to work with the faculty, staff and students at Pepperdine,” commented Judge Tacha. “I am grateful for the support I have been given thus far and honored that the President, Provost and search committee have entrusted me with working to enhance the national stature, educational experience, and Christian environment of the Pepperdine University School of Law. It is truly because of all the fine people that I met during my visits that I decided to make this shift in my career.”

Judge Tacha has been a Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, since January 1986, and served as Chief Judge from January 2001 through 2007. Tacha earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kansas and her juris doctorate from the University of Michigan. She also was a White House Fellow.

After serving as Associate Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law from 1974-1977, she was Professor of Law there from 1977-1985. She later held the posts of Associate Dean, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Judge Tacha received the KU Alumni Association's Fred Ellsworth Medallion for extraordinary service to the university and its most prestigious award, the Distinguished Service Citation. She was also named “Kansan of the Year” by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas. Judge Tacha’s appointment follows a nine-month national search to replace former Dean Kenneth W. Starr (now President of Baylor University). “We interviewed several excellent internal and external candidates for the position, but Judge Tacha emerged as the person best positioned to have an immediate positive impact on our school,” said Pepperdine Provost Darryl Tippens. “In addition to being a respected jurist and legal scholar, she is experienced in academic administration having served as the chief academic officer of a major American university. Pepperdine is fortunate Judge Tacha has agreed to commit her energy, enthusiasm and intellect to our university.”

Before joining the University of Kansas, she practiced law in Washington, D.C., and Kansas, and was Director of the Douglas County Legal Aid Clinic. She also served as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States and was named in 2006 by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to the Conference's Executive Committee. Previously, she served two terms as Chair of the Conference's Committee on the Judicial Branch.

As a spokesperson for enhanced ethics, professionalism, and civility in the legal profession, Judge Tacha has been active in the American Inns of Court movement. She helped found the Judge Hugh Means American Inn of Court in Lawrence, served on the national Board of Trustees of the American Inns of Court and was its national president from 2004-2008. She was a recipient of the Devitt Award in 2007, the highest honor given to a federal judge for distinguished lifetime service, and a year later received the John Marshall Award from the American Bar Association for positively impacting the justice system.

Judge Tacha holds professional memberships in the American Bar Association, American Bar Foundation (Life Member), American Law Institute, Kansas Bar Association, Phi Beta Kappa and Order of Coif and she is admitted to the Bar in Kansas, Missouri and the District of Columbia. Additionally, she is a past chair of the Appellate Judges Conference and a former member of the ABA's Commission on Women in the Profession. She also has held leadership positions in several civic and charitable organizations.

Pepperdine’s School of Law is among the nation’s most preeminent law schools. Its flagship programs include the Geoffrey H. Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law, the Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics, the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies, and Pepperdine’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. Founded in Los Angeles in 1937, Pepperdine is an independent Christian university offering graduate and undergraduate degrees through its Seaver College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences and four graduate schools of business, law, public policy, and education and psychology. Headquartered in Malibu, CA, The university has approximately 7,500 full-time and part-time students in its five colleges and schools, and operates international programs in Europe, South America and Asia.

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