I am saddened to report that Professor Ronald D. Rotunda died unexpectedly yesterday of pneumonia after a brief hospital stay. He was 73. A distinguished professor of law, Ron, as he was known to his friends, was a visiting senior fellow in constitutional studies at Cato during the 2000 calendar year. He remained a Cato senior fellow in constitutional studies until 2008 and served on the editorial board of the Cato Supreme Court Review from its inception in 2001 until 2008. After leaving Cato in 2000 he joined the faculty of the George Mason University School of Law. In 2008 he joined the faculty of Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law where he was the Doy and Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at the time of his death.
A graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Law School, Ron was for much of his career the Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. I first met him in the early 1990s when the college’s Federalist Society chapter invited me to speak there. Ron was the chapter’s faculty advisor. He picked me up from the airport in his vintage Rolls Royce. Ever the showman, he was famous for his colorful collection of bow ties, matching his colorful character. But beneath the show was a serious scholar of immense erudition. He is perhaps best known for his five-volume Treatise on Constitutional Law: Substance and Procedure, co-authored with John E. Nowak, but his scholarship covered many legal fields. His popular writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and beyond, and many of those works have been translated into several languages. His c.v., detailing his many appointments and honors, runs some 55 pages.
During his brief year with us at Cato, Ron was a valued member of our small Center for Constitutional Studies team and a mentor for all. We were in the early stages then of developing our now highly-regarded amicus brief program. I recall in particular a brief we filed with the Supreme Court on January 1, 2001, in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where we offered the Court a reading of the Commerce Clause that the Framers would have recognized. While moving in that direction, the Court did not go that far, but we were pleased at least that we had shown the flag and that we emerged on the winning side. Well before that, however, Ron had contributed a chapter to the book that Ed Crane and I edited in 1994, The Politics and Law of Term Limits. And Ron contributed another chapter to my edited collection, The Rule of Law in the Wake of Clinton, which Cato published in 2000. At our website, you will find more of Ron’s contributions to Cato’s work. We will miss him. May he rest in peace.