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UC Davis School of Law celebrates $30 million expansion

September 3, 2010

Renovation ushers in new era

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The University of California, Davis, School of Law today opened a $30 million expansion that includes a new high-tech courtroom, additional classrooms and group study areas, all of which incorporate the latest environmentally sensitive advances.

The new wing adds 18,000 square feet of assignable space, a 29 percent increase, to Martin Luther King Jr. Hall, the home of the nationally ranked law school. Although enrollment has grown steadily in the more than 40 years since the building first opened in 1968, its size had remained largely the same.

“There has been an incredible change in legal education and the building hadn’t changed in any substantial way,” said Kevin Johnson, dean of the law school. “It was ill-equipped for a 21st century law school. We needed to update the building and make it befitting of Dr. King’s name.”

Johnson joined UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg — a 1984 graduate of the law school — and hundreds of alumni, students, friends and supporters to celebrate the grand opening of the new wing.

“In its brief history, the School of Law has risen to national and international prominence,” Katehi said. “Now, thanks to the many individuals and institutions who have helped make the vision of a new building a reality, UC Davis School of Law has a home suitable to its status as one of the nation’s elite law schools.”

The project was more than a decade in the making, with construction starting three years ago. The expansion will be followed by a renovation of the original wing, estimated to take another 18 months.

The new state-of-the-art appellate courtroom (no jury box) seats 125 and is expected to host oral arguments of the California Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the California Court of Appeal, something the law school has never done, Johnson said.

The state and federal court sessions will be open to both students and the public.

“It’s an incredible educational opportunity for our students and something the courts are trying to do to engage in more outreach, so the public gets a chance to see how the courts work,” Johnson explained.

With planning for the expansion already under way, a 2004 report from an accreditation team of the American Bar Association noted the law school’s facilities were “small and reflect an earlier era in legal education.”

King Hall was originally built to accommodate a mostly male enrollment, while women today make up more than half of the enrollment. It was also designed for a smaller student body. Even with the expansion, there are no immediate plans to increase the current enrollment of 610 students, Johnson said.

The new wing incorporates many environmentally responsible advances, including the use of recycled denim jeans for insulation, lights that turn off automatically when rooms are empty, a design that maximizes natural light and windows that deflect solar heat.

The project was financed with $17.9 million in state bond funds, $5.5 million raised from private donors and $3.9 million from other campus funds. The law school needs to raise another $2.4 million to complete the renovation.

Recently ranked 28th by U.S. News & World Report magazine, the UC Davis School of Law opened in 1966 and graduated its first class in 1969. King Hall was dedicated in 1969 in a ceremony that included remarks from the late U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, who was also a former California governor.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

Media contact(s):

  • Pamela Wu, School of Law, (530) 754-7173, pcwu@ucdavis.edu
  • News Service, (530) 752-1930

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