Robert Rasmussen Named USC Law Dean

Noted legal scholar and administrator is an expert on corporate bankruptcy and reorganizations.
By James Grant
Rasmussen is the author or co-author of dozens of articles published in some of the country's leading law journals.

On behalf of USC President Steven B. Sample, Provost C. L. Max Nikias has announced the appointment of Robert K. Rasmussen as dean of the USC Gould School of Law, effective Aug. 1.

Rasmussen also will hold the Carl Mason Franklin Dean’s Chair in Law.

He will join USC from the Vanderbilt University Law School, where he holds the Milton Underwood Chair in Law and serves as director of the Law & Human Behavior Program.

In earlier service at Vanderbilt, he was chair of the University Faculty Senate and served the law school as associate dean for academic affairs. In addition, he was the longtime director of the Vanderbilt Law and Economics Program.

“Professor Rasmussen has developed a reputation as one of the nation's outstanding legal scholars in the fields of bankruptcy and corporate reorganizations and as a strong administrator during nearly two decades at Vanderbilt,” Nikias said.

“He has also developed a distinguished record in teaching. Professor Rasmussen is one of the most celebrated teachers in the 125-year history of the Vanderbilt Law School, having received its outstanding teaching award six times.”

Nikias said that Rasmussen will take the helm of the USC Gould School at an important moment in its history a time when the school is refining an approach for legal education that can serve as a model for other legal and professional schools. Cross-disciplinary approaches, global partnerships, public service and lifelong education are among the keys to achieving this goal, Nikias said.

“It is an honor to be asked to join the Trojan Family, especially as dean of the Gould School of Law,” Rasmussen said. “The school is a wonderful institution located in one of the great cities of the world. Its faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends exemplify what a great law school should be.

“Together with the entire USC community, the law school will continue on its path toward becoming one of the great law schools in the world.”

Rasmussen’s scholarly expertise is focused on the interaction of market forces and corporate reorganization law, and his most recent work addresses fundamental changes in corporate reorganization practice.

His research has focused on ways in which increasing liquidity of financial markets has dramatically changed the current legal landscape for corporate bankruptcy.

He is the author or co-author of dozens of articles published in some of the country's leading law journals, including the Supreme Court Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Stanford Law Review and the Michigan Law Review.

During his service as Vanderbilt Law School’s associate dean for academic affairs, Rasmussen’s leadership was notable for strong mentoring of outstanding junior faculty talent. He developed systems and approaches that would allow junior faculty to achieve their fullest potential as teachers and scholars, Nikias said.

At USC, Rasmussen will take over the deanship of the USC Gould School of Law after a year in which Edward McCaffery, holder of the Robert C. Packard Trustee Chair in Law, served as interim dean.

McCaffery, one of the nation’s leading tax law scholars, will continue his service on the USC Gould School faculty. Nikias noted that during his year as interim dean, McCaffery continued the recruitment of leading scholars to the faculty, maintained the school’s tradition of excellence in clinical education and public service, recruited an outstanding class of entering law students and cultivated the school’s connections with alumni and members of the bar.

"Bob Rasmussen is an impressive scholar, a beloved teacher and a respected administrator. I am confident that he will provide thoughtful leadership for USC Law," McCaffery said.

"Like all members of the law school community, I want what's best for the law school. I look forward to supporting Bob as he takes us in new and exciting directions."

In making the announcement, Nikias also announced that Rasmussen’s wife renowned constitutional law scholar Rebecca Brown will be appointed holder of the Richard B. Newton Professorship of Constitutional Law at the USC Gould School. Brown has served on the Vanderbilt faculty since 1988 and holds the Allen Chair in Law.

Brown, who will join the USC faculty in summer 2008, previously worked in the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. She also served as an associate in the law firm of Onek, Klein & Farr and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Chief Judge Spottswood Robinson III of the D.C. Circuit. Her work, which sets forth a vision of the Constitution premised on individual liberty, is widely published in leading law reviews and edited volumes.

Rasmussen, who joined Vanderbilt in 1989, has been active in dozens of committees at the law school and university. During his terms as chair-elect and chair of Vanderbilt's faculty senate, he led a successful campaign to extend university benefits to domestic partnerships.

He also has served on committees dedicated to undergraduate research, recruitment and retention of women and minority faculty, institutional repository policy, patents and numerous other areas of academic and administrative life.

From 1998 to 2006, he served as director of Vanderbilt Law School's Law & Economics Program. He held Vanderbilt's Fed Ex Research Professorship from 2004 to 2005 and also has been a visiting professor at the University of Chicago and University of Michigan law schools.

He is an active member of the American Law and Economics Association, and he participated in the American Bankruptcy Institute's Bankruptcy Reform Study Project.

He has played a role in shaping the jurisprudence in his field as the principal author of an amicus curiae brief on behalf of nine law professors in the 1999 Supreme Court case Bank of America v. 203 North LaSalle Street Partnership; was the principal author of an amicus curiae brief on behalf of three law professors in Integrated Telecom Express, Inc., a 2004 case decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; and was the principal author of an amicus curiae brief on behalf of seven law professors in Owens Corning, a 2005 case also decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Before joining the Vanderbilt law faculty, he worked in the Civil Division Appellate Staff at the U.S. Department of Justice, handling litigation in the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court. He also clerked for the Honorable John C. Godbold, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Rasmussen earned his J.D. cum laude in 1985 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was comment editor of the University of Chicago Law Review. He earned his B.A. magna cum laude from Loyola University of Chicago in 1982, majoring in political science and minoring in mathematics.