Ronald K. Chen
Acting Dean, Distinguished Professor of Law, and Judge Leonard I. Garth Scholar
Ronald Chen became Acting Dean of the Law School on April 11, 2013, when Dean Farmer began a leave of absence to serve as Senior Vice President and University Counsel.
Dean Chen returned to the law school in January 2010 after serving for four years as the first Public Advocate of New Jersey in 13 years when the Department of the Public Advocate was restored in 2006. As a member of Governor Corzine’s Cabinet, he was charged with providing advocacy for a number of specific constituencies, including elder citizens, persons with disabilities, mental health services’ consumers, and ratepayers, and was generally given standing to represent the public interest in legal proceedings. His areas of focus included eminent domain reform, voters’ rights, affordable housing, childhood lead poisoning prevention, deinstitutionalization of persons with developmental disabilities and mental health services’ consumers, and affordable energy for ratepayers. As Public Advocate, he was named chair of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy, which was charged with making recommendations on how state government can best assist immigrants to integrate into the New Jersey community.
Prior to becoming the Public Advocate, Dean Chen was the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the law school, with responsibility for overall academic and curricular operations and policy. He has also served as Acting Director of the Minority Student Program. Through all these jobs, he maintained a busy schedule as a law professor, teaching Contracts, Federal Courts, Mass Media Law and Church-State Relations. In addition, Dean Chen has appeared numerous times in state and federal court litigating civil rights, civil liberties and constitutional law cases. He currently continues this work through the Constitutional Rights Clinic.
Dean Chen is an active lay leader of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He first served as a trustee on the New Jersey affiliate board from 1989 to 2002, and then was elected to ACLU’s national board. In 2002, he was elected by the national board to serve on the National Executive Committee. After completing his term as Public Advocate, he has been re-elected to the ACLU National Board and New Jersey affiliate board, and currently serves on the ACLU-NJ Legal Committee and the ACLU National Board Executive Committee.
Dean Chen earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1980 and graduated from Rutgers School of Law–Newark with high honors in 1983, where he was editor-in-chief of the Rutgers Law Review and the Saul Tischler Scholar. He served as law clerk to the Honorable Leonard I. Garth of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and then practiced with a large New York City firm until 1987 when he returned to the law school as a member of the faculty.
He currently serves as Vice-Chair of the New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, as a member of the New Jersey Law Journal editorial board, and as the Dean’s representative on the NJ Commission on Professionalism. He chaired the New Jersey State Bar Association Committee on Legal Education from 2003-2006, and chaired the Third Circuit Lawyers Advisory Committee from 2002-2003.
He was named the New Jersey Law Journal’s “Lawyer of the Year” for 2007, in large part because of his work in using state constitutional principles to prevent eminent domain abuse. Among the other awards he has received are the Fannie Bear Besser Award for public service given by the Rutgers School of Law–Newark Alumni Association, the 2007 Mel Narol Excellence in Diversity Award given by the New Jersey State Bar Association, the 2002 Roger Baldwin Award bestowed by ACLU-NJ for contributions to civil liberties, and the 2001 Outstanding Achievement Award bestowed by the Association of Asian and Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey.