Dean of U Law School resigns

An interim dean will be named and a national search for a new dean will start.

University Law School Dean Alex M. Johnson has resigned as dean effective May 31, according to a University news release and e-mails made available Wednesday by the University.

Johnson will spend the 2006-2007 academic year on sabbatical and plans to return as a faculty member with dean emeritus status, according to one of the e-mails, written by Johnson.

E. Thomas Sullivan, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, said in the news release the Law School will name an interim dean and begin a national search for a new dean after consulting with Law School students, faculty and staff members.

“In his four years here, dean Alex Johnson has accomplished the goals he wanted to achieve and we thank him for his service to the University of Minnesota Law School,” Sullivan said in the news release.

Johnson became the ninth University Law School dean in July 2002. He also has taught at the University of Virginia, Stanford University, University of Texas and Washington University law schools after practicing law in the private sector with Los Angeles-based Latham & Watkins, according to the Law School’s Web site.

Attempts to reach Johnson and Sullivan were unsuccessful.

A September 2002 Alumni Association interview said he would focus on improving the Law School library, recruiting minority students, reducing the faculty-to-student ratio and retaining the Law School’s best professors.

The news release credited increased Law School applications, higher entering grade point averages and median Law School Admission Test scores to Johnson’s recruiting efforts.

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson said he is surprised to hear Johnson resigned.

“I always enjoyed working with him, I think he always did a wonderful job at maintaining the status of the Law School here,” Anderson said.

Anderson, who is also an adjunct professor who teaches judicial process and administration at the University’s Law School, said he appreciated that Johnson strived to maintain diversity within the Law School and appreciated him as a scholar.

“It’s not unusual for this sort of thing to happen, it’s an all-consuming job,” he said.

Anderson said the length of past dean tenures shows that Johnson “has been here around the average tenure a dean usually serves.”

Second-year law student Kim Allen said she heard about Johnson stepping down through an e-mail that was circulated to law students Friday before Johnson formally announced his resignation.

Allen said she thinks Johnson resigning could “certainly be a chance for the Law School to move into a positive direction.”

There was not enough funding for the Law School’s public interest program, and students could not pay for their program without taking on huge debt, Allen said.

“He failed to support and fund the public interest program and public interest groups and this is something we need for our law school to be one of the top 20 law schools in the nation,” Allen said.