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‘A joy to be around’: Community remembers Berkeley Law professor David Lieberman

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SEPTEMBER 16, 2022

Campus emeritus and beloved UC Berkeley School of Law professor, David Lieberman, died in a hiking accident at Lassen National Park on Sept. 10.

Born in 1953, Lieberman retired this July after serving as a member of Berkeley Law School’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy/Legal Studies, or JSPLS, program since 1984.

“For the years I was at Berkeley, David was a wonderful colleague in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program,” said New York University Law professor Jeremy Waldron in an email. “He was the best of citizens—cheerful and good-humored in his work and a remarkable scholar in the area of Bentham studies and 18th and 19th century jurisprudence. It was a joy to be around him and to benefit from his friendship and wisdom.”

According to a statement from JSPLS, Lieberman was a world-renowned expert on Jeremy Bentham and the history of English constitutionalism.

The statement also noted his exceptional diplomatic skills.

According to campus emeritus professor Stephen Bundy, Lieberman “could make the lion lie down with the lamb, all while making the lion feel powerful and the lamb secure.”

Many colleagues and former students also commented on Lieberman’s intelligence and humility.

UNSW Sydney professor Martin Krygier noted he was stunned by his “eloquence, erudition and also by his wit” upon first meeting him in 1985.

“He was a wonderful teacher who was adored by his students,” said Dean of Berkeley Law Erwin Chemerinsky in an email. “And he was a terrific colleague who held many important positions on campus. We will tremendously miss him.”

According to campus professor Henry Hecht, Lieberman once suffered a bike accident that left him paralyzed below the waist. He eventually recovered, but colleagues organized to stay by his bedside 24/7 while he was in the ICU, a testament to how much they cherished him.

Hecht, who helped organize the group, said even during this trying time Lieberman was “funnier, wiser and better spirited” than Hecht on his best day.

Campus professor Eric Naiman said in a statement he was stunned at “how solicitous” Lieberman was towards nurses and visitors throughout the ordeal, “as if they were the ones to worry about.” He added that Lieberman’s ability to find humor in moments that would have made others bitter made him the “best of parents and the warmest of friends.”

A Padlet has been set up for anyone who wishes to share their memories of Lieberman. It also includes suggestions from his family on where interested parties could make donations in his name.

“The world is a much worse place without David, but it is a much better place, and my own life is so much better, for having had him in it,” said former student Megan Wachspress in a statement.

Contact Ratul Mangal at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @mangalratul.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2022