Edward K. Cheng appointed to the Hess Chair in Law

Professor Ed Cheng Photo by Joe HowellEdward K. Cheng has been appointed to the Hess Chair in Law. He is the first recipient of the Hess Chair, which was established in 2017 by William “Hal” Hess, JD’90, and Jodi Hess, to honor the law school’s contribution to Hess’s career.

Cheng’s appointment to the newly endowed chair was announced by Dean Chris Guthrie, and he was among eight newly appointed chairholders honored by Vanderbilt University Sept. 18.

Cheng’s research focuses on scientific and expert evidence, and the interaction between law and statistics. He is a coauthor of Modern Scientific Evidence, a five-volume treatise that is updated annually. In 2016, he established a podcast, Excited Utterance, in which he interviews scholars whose work focuses on evidence and proof, which now has 3,000 subscribers. He has published more than 40 articles in which he explores evidence law from an empirical and statistical perspective, and his work has been published in the Journal of Legal StudiesYale Law Journal, and Stanford Law Review, among other prestigious law journals.

Cheng earned a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2001 and will be receiving his Ph.D. in statistics from Columbia University in October 2018. After earning his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, where he graduated summa cum laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Cheng earned a master’s in science in information systems with distinction at the London School of Economics and Political Science as a Fulbright Scholar. After law school, he was a law clerk for Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“Ed Cheng is revered by his students and considered one of our finest teachers–he has won the Hall-Hartman Outstanding Professor Award an astonishing seven times in eight years,” Dean Guthrie said. “He is also one of the leading evidence law scholars of his generation. His work is animated by a set of epistemological questions that are at the heart of legal dispute resolution: What is expertise, and what role should it play in the search for truth? Who gets to assess the validity and reliability of that expertise? And what is the appropriate relationship between the scientific method and the adversarial system of proofs? To address these vital questions, he combines sophisticated statistical techniques with the legal analytic method.”

Hal Hess, who, with his wife Jodi Hess, endowed the Hess Chair, began his legal career at King & Spalding in Atlanta, where he was named partner in 1997. In 2001 he joined American Tower Corporation as chief financial officer of its international operations. He currently serves as its president for the Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa Regions.

A dedicated alumnus of the Vanderbilt Law School, Hess volunteers for the Law Admissions Interview Program and has participated in the Law School Board of Advisors. In 2006, Hal and Jodi Hess established the Hess Scholarship to provide financial assistance to second- or third-year law students at Vanderbilt. In honor of his 25th Reunion, Hess later provided a challenge gift to establish the Law School Class of 1990 Scholarship.


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