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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Honoring Distinguished Professor Geoffrey Hazard on his Retirement From Teaching

It’s hard to imagine anyone with Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr.’s work ethic ever retiring.

And yet Hazard, known as “Geoff,” or, as he answers the phone, simply “Hazard,” is retiring this spring from teaching as the Thomas E. Miller Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law.

A nationally respected expert in the field of civil procedure and legal ethics, his teaching at the college caps a life in the law as a prolific writer, professor, and for 15 years, as the Director of the American Law Institute (ALI), the leading U.S. independent organization producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize and improve the law.

Perhaps no one has done more to influence the ethical conduct of more lawyers than Hazard. He began teaching in 1958 and led the development of scholarship in his fields. Over his career, Hazard has been responsible for instilling ethics in thousands of young lawyers, over several generations, and served as an inspiration and mentor to dozens of younger law professors.

“When you become a lawyer, you become someone different from what you’d been before,” Hazard said recently in an interview with Chancellor and Dean Frank H. Wu.

Among Hazard’s 16 books are treatises that serve as mainstays in American legal education. In addition to his books, he also served as Reporter for the Restatement (Second) of Judgments. He will be given ALI’s Distinguished Service Award at its annual meeting in May 2013.

Prior to UC Hastings, Hazard taught at UC Berkeley, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale Law School, where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was his student and research assistant. Hazard’s piercing intellect was softened by his avuncular nature, ready wit and often self-deprecating humor, making him a popular teacher and administrator.

“A renowned scholar who thinks deeply, writes succinctly, and speaks clearly, Geoff is also unpretentious and lighthearted,” said longtime friend Michael Traynor. “It is a pleasure to be in his company."

Speaking at a Feb. 5 reception at UC Hastings in his honor, Richard Marcus, Distinguished Professor of Law, noted Hazard was a “giant” in multiple fields. “I'm tempted to say that he's a latter-day version of Aristotle, who was said to have been ‘the last man who knew everything.’ Geoff is likely the last person who could come close to knowing "everything" about American law. And he surely knows almost everything about procedure and professional responsibility. Nobody can proceed very far into those subjects without consulting, citing, and relying on Hazard.”

Marcus said that often Hazard’s thinking was decades ahead of the law. “Fifty years ago he published "Research in Civil Procedure," which cogently criticized the existing state of procedure scholarship at the time and recommended improvements. It was more than 30 years before people began to realize that he was right, and even now we have not caught up with where he already was in 1963.”

“But for the rest of us, trying to catch up with Geoff Hazard has become a way of life, and failing to catch up with him has become par for the course.”

Over his long career, Hazard has been extraordinarily generous with his time and talents, willing to spend time with students and address smaller groups as often as he spoke to hundreds of people at national gatherings. As one of the nation’s leading lights on legal ethics, he was sought after as an expert witness and consultant. And yet he also was readily available to reporters, helping them understand issues and parse legal conduct, thus, constantly teaching both lawyers and laypersons.

While at UC Hastings, Hazard led student research on the working papers and legal legacy of Justice Roger Traynor, former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and a pioneering legal intellectual.

Now 83, Hazard is not through writing. His latest book, “Moral Foundations of American Law,” with son Doug Pinto, a biblical scholar, is due out in Spring 2013 from Intersentia Press.

He is also working with Professor Kate Bloch and Associate Dean for Experiential Programs Nancy Stuart on a video that will help students negotiate ethical issues they are likely to encounter in their summer jobs, externships and clerkships. “Geoff brings a phenomenal amount of experience and wisdom to the project. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to continue to learn from him,” Bloch said.

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