Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda

Until his death in March 2018, Ronald D. Rotunda was the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law. Before that, he was University Professor and Professor of Law at George Mason University and the Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor of Law, the University of Illinois.  He was a magna cum laude graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was a member of Harvard Law Review. Before that, he clerked for Judge Walter R. Mansfield 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals).  He practiced law in Washington, D.C., and was assistant majority counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee.
He co-authored the most widely used course book on legal ethics, Problems and Materials on Professional Responsibility (Foundation Press, 12th ed. 2014); authored a leading course book on constitutional law, Modern Constitutional Law (West Academic Co., 11th ed. 2015);  co-authored (with John Dzienkowski) Legal Ethics: The Lawyer’s Deskbook on Professional Responsibility (ABA-Thompson Reuters Publishing, 2016-2017 Ed.);  co-authored (with John Nowak) the six-volume Treatise on Constitutional Law (West/Thompson Reuters Publishing, 5th ed. 2012)( annually updated); and authored the one-volume Treatise on Constitutional Law (West Academic, 8th ed. 2010). He published several other books and more than 500 articles in law reviews, journals, newspapers in this country and abroad. His works have been translated into French, Portuguese German, Romanian, Czech, Russian, Japanese, and Korean. State and federal courts at every level, foreign courts in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, and law reviews have cited his publications more than 2000 times.  
In 1993, he was the Constitutional Law Adviser to the Supreme National Council of Cambodia, and assisted that country in writing its first democratic constitution. He consulted with new democracies in Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine on their proposed constitutions and judicial codes. He chaired the subcommittee that drafted the American Bar Association’s Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement; was a member of the Publications Board of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility (1994 to 2016); and was member of the ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline (1991-1997). He was Fulbright Professor in Venezuela (1986) and Fulbright Research Scholar in Italy (1981). In 1996, he assisted the Czech Republic in drafting the first Rules of Ethics for lawyers.  He was a Visiting Scholar, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Law, Leuven, Belgium, and a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Law and Economics, Institut für Recht und Ökonomik, the University of Hamburg.  From early June 2004 to May 2005, he was the Special Counsel to the Department of Defense.
In May 2000, American Law Media, publisher of The American Lawyer, the National Law Journal, and the Legal Times picked Rotunda as one of the ten most influential Illinois Lawyers.   Also in 2000, a University of Chicago Press study to determine the influence, productivity, and reputations of law professors over the last several decades, ranked Rotunda as the 17th highest in the nation.  The 2002-2003 New Educational Quality Ranking of U.S. Law Schools (EQR) [the last year for which such records are available] ranks Professor Rotunda as the eleventh most cited of all law faculty in the United States. See http://www.leiterrankings.com/faculty/2002faculty_impact_cites.shtml.He was selected the Best Lawyer in Washington, DC, in 2009 in Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law, as published in November 2008 in the Washington Post in association with the Legal Times.  When he moved to California, he was similarly selected every year, since 2009.  From 2009 to 2013, he was a Commissioner of the Fair Political Practices Commission, a state regulatory agency (analogous to the Federal Election Commission).  He was a Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Legal Education (2014 to 2016). See also, www.ronaldrotunda.org.

Columns by Ronald D. Rotunda

Lawyers, Passwords, and the Obligation to Keep Clients’ Secrets

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda explains in concrete terms what the ABA's recommendation that attorneys "keep abreast" of "the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology" means: change your passwords into passphrases to keep confidential information secure. Rotunda describes how easy it is to hack simple passwords and cautions lawyers that the ramifications of compromised client information can be significant and far-reaching.

Lawyers and Judges Crossing the Bar in 2017

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda commemorates some of the notable lawyers who died in 2017, including John Nolan, Jr., Michel, Aurillac, Willie, Stevenson Glanton, Gustavo Valdés, Hersh Wolch, the honorable Thomas Griesa, and others. Rotunda also notes one lawyer who had a near-death experience, Nikolai Gorokhov, a Russian lawyer who found key evidence of a $230 million corruption scandal involving high-ranking state officials.

Facebook, Russian Interference and the Monsters on Maple Street

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda compares the Russian interference with American democracy with an episode of Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone from over fifty years ago. Rotunda points out that even with a relatively modest budget, the Russian government was able to exploit the most dangerous enemy of any society—the people who comprise it.

Bitcoin and the Legal Ethics of Lawyers

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda comments on a recent opinion by the Nebraska bar concluding that lawyers may receive digital currencies such as bitcoin for their services, but only subject to certain conditions. Rotunda provides a brief explanation of bitcoin and explains why the opinion makes no sense. Rotunda calls upon lawyers and state bars to consider the impact of new technology on lawyers, but not to impose special rules on novel tools that are simply a new way of engaging in a traditional endeavor.

The Fall of Seriatim Opinions and the Rise of the Supreme Court

Chapman University Fowler School of Law professor Ronald D. Rotunda describes the historic practice by the US Supreme Court of issuing seriatim opinions, where each justice wrote his own separate opinion, rather than the current practice of issuing an Opinion of the Court. Rotunda describes the role of Chief Justice John Marshall in changing the practice, which resulted in the most powerful Court in the world.

Can Robots Practice Law?

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda comments on the laws regulating the practice of law, and specifically, defining (or not defining) what the practice of law means. Rotunda argues that despite (or because of) the difficulty of defining the practice of law, computers and technology are advancing the practice of law and the work of lawyers.

Indicting the President: President Clinton’s Justice Department Says No

Chapman University Fowler School of Law professor Ronald D. Rotunda explains his legal conclusion in the opinion letter he authored for Ken Star regarding the ability of a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president. Rotunda points out that the key difference between then and now is the presence of a special prosecutor statute protecting independent counsel from removal.

Beveridge’s Life of Marshall and its Relevance Today

Chapman University Fowler School of Law professor Ronald D. Rotunda comments on Albert Jeremiah Beveridge’s historic biography of John Marshall and notes that both Beveridge and Marshall are revered in spite of their being wrong (in hindsight) about certain moral truths. Rotunda points out that every generation thinks itself smarter and more moral than the previous generation, so if we do not practice humility about the past, we risk being blindsided by different prejudices today.

An English Teacher Corrects Shakespeare

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda critiques an English professor at Northern Arizona University for insisting that a student use the word “humankind” rather than “mankind.” Rotunda points out that the origin of the English word “man” encompasses both sexes and that for English professors (or any instructor) to force students to use certain words and shun others is an abuse of the power of words.

How to Drain the Swamp? Use a Flashlight

Chapman University Fowler School of Law professor Ronald D. Rotunda calls for the executive branch to shine a light into some areas of government that have been obscured in the past eight years, including the conduct of former IRS officer Lois Lerner, Operation Fast and Furious, and investigations by the offices of the inspectors general. Rotunda argues that the release of documents related to these and other issues will help us know if we should be worried about our government.

Visas: The Historical and Legal Precedent

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda explains the legal precedent behind the executive’s power to restrict visas for non-U.S. citizens to enter the United States. Rotunda points out that the recent opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit fails to mention almost any of the precedential cases on point when it struck down President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration.

Labeling Moderate Muslims As Anti-Muslim Extremists

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda discusses the controversial designation of Maajid Nawaz, a practicing Muslim, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former Muslim, as “hateful extremists” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Rotunda argues that SPLC should reconsider its criteria for labeling someone an extremist, and he points out ways in which SPLC’s labeling system is inconsistent and misguided.