UCLA School of Law welcomes Blake Emerson and Sunita Patel to its tenure-track faculty for the 2017-18 school year, bolstering the school’s leadership in administrative and civil rights law. Dale Cohen and Wilbert Watts also join UCLA Law and will play key roles in clinics focused on documentary filmmaking and advocacy for military veterans.
Blake Emerson is a scholar in administrative law, civil rights and political thought. Most recently a research fellow at the Administrative Conference of the United States, Emerson focuses his work on the role of the administrative state in promoting democratic values and social justice, with a particular focus on systemic remedies for racial discrimination.
His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in the Minnesota Law Review, Buffalo Law Review and Review of Politics, among other publications. He is also the co-author, with Peter Lindseth and Susan Rose-Ackerman, of the second edition of the research handbook Comparative Administrative Law. His forthcoming book, The Public’s Law: A Progressive Vision of American Democracy, will be published by Oxford University Press.
Emerson received a B.A. in political science and philosophy from Williams College, magna cum laude; an M.A, M.Phil., and Ph.D. in political science from Yale University; and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He joins UCLA Law as an assistant professor.
Sunita Patel enters as assistant professor and the inaugural faculty director of UCLA Law’s Veterans Legal Services Clinical Program. The program, which has an office at the Veterans Administration campus in West Los Angeles, is designed to give law students hands-on opportunities to serve as legal representatives for veterans struggling with homelessness and access to services.
A seasoned public interest litigator, Patel most recently held clinical teaching positions with the Civil Advocacy Clinic at American University Washington College of Law and the Transnational Legal Clinic at University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her deep experience as a practitioner includes work with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Legal Aid Society of New York and the Southern Center for Human Rights, in areas including immigration law, worker rights, prison reform and civil rights. She was plaintiffs’ counsel in the landmark class action Floyd v. City of New York, in which the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy was found to be discriminatory and unconstitutional. She also held a prestigious Soros Justice Advocacy fellowship and been honored by organizations including the National Lawyers Guild and the Sikh Coalition.
Patel earned a B.A. from Tulane University and a J.D., magna cum laude, from American University. Patel served as a law clerk for the Hon. Ivan L. R. Lemelle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Will Watts will work closely with Patel in his role as co-director of UCLA Law’s Veterans Legal Services Clinical Program. Watts arrives from Public Counsel, where he was the directing attorney for the Homelessness Prevention Law Project. In this role, he sought to address the needs of veterans and non-veterans who are homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless. He oversaw the project’s work on state and local policy, government benefits, and housing. This included supervising the firm’s participation in the Shriver Housing Project, a pilot project providing low-income litigants with representation in eviction matters.
Watts also has an extensive background in the private sector, where he primarily practiced in the area of real estate, representing some of the country’s largest banks and real estate developers. As a partner at DLA Piper in Los Angeles, Watts was honored as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association in 2010. He has also been honored for his pro bono and public interest work, which includes service as a Los Angeles County Commissioner and as a board member of New Los Angeles Charter Schools and of the Los Angeles Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
Watts earned an A.B., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Dale Cohen will serve as the inaugural director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic at UCLA Law. Tapping UCLA’s location in the heart of the motion picture industry, the clinic will begin in 2018 as a hub where independent filmmakers can receive free legal services in areas such as contracts, licensing, intellectual property and First Amendment law from students who gain valuable training for careers as entertainment attorneys.
Among the nation’s foremost media law experts, Cohen is special counsel at Frontline, the award-winning PBS current affairs documentary series. He has held similar executive roles with NPR, Cox Enterprises, the Tribune Company and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and was a litigation partner with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. Co-author of the definitive textbook in the field, Media and the Law, Cohen has taught News Media Law in the Digital Age at UCLA Law since January 2016. He has also taught at University of North Carolina School of Law, Emory College, the University of Maryland and Northwestern University.
He received a B.A., cum laude, from Syracuse University and a J.D., cum laude, from Northwestern University School of Law.
“Each of these outstanding individuals has talent, passion for the law and exceptional experience that will benefit our students,” said Jennifer L. Mnookin, Dean and David G. Price and Dallas P. Price Professor of Law. “I am excited to welcome them to UCLA Law.”