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David Caron
In Memoriam

David Caron

C. William Maxeiner Distinguished Professor of Law, Emeritus

UC Berkeley
Born in Connecticut into a French-Canadian family on June 28, 1952, David Caron was successfully nominated to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, from which he graduated with distinction and — in early recognition of his leadership qualities — as commander of the Cadet Corps. He served for five years as a Coast Guard officer, first in the Arctic Command as Chief Diving and Navigation Officer on the ice-breaker Polar Star and then in the Marine Environment Unit stationed in California.

Especially the latter assignment sparked David’s interest in ocean and environmental issues, and thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship he attended the University of Wales, Cardiff, receiving the M.A. degree in marine law and policy in 1980. That year also sparked his interest in singing: David had a good baritone voice and once told a reporter that to be accepted at Cardiff you either had to play rugby or join a choir, and he preferred the latter — a choice that predestined him to become the perennial Santa Claus at Berkeley Law’s annual holiday party.

The Cardiff program led David to his interest in law, and he thus came to the University of California, Berkeley, where he had the formative experience of coming under the mentorship of Stefan Riesenfeld and Harry Scheiber, whose interests in public international law and Law of the Sea shaped his own future academic career. He graduated with distinction in 1983, and moved with his young family to The Hague (the Netherlands), where he became one of the few U.S. citizens to enroll in the Hague Academy of International Law, receiving its diploma in 1985.

The Iran-U.S. Arbitral Tribunal had just been established at that time, with its seat in The Hague, and David had the good fortune to serve as legal clerk to one of its U.S. members in the first year of that tribunal’s operations. In every respect it was a transformative experience, and when after a brief period of practice he decided to embark on an academic career, UC Berkeley’s School of Law succeeded in recruiting him to its faculty in 1987. His deep understanding of the substance and institutional framework of public international law and of ocean and international environmental law provided the basis of his teaching, writing, and public service, in each aspect of which he enjoyed a well-deserved international reputation.

He also was in great demand as an arbitrator, usually sole or as the chair of a tribunal; and that both in international investment disputes and public-sector conflicts such as the Eritrean-Ethiopian War Claims Tribunal, where he served as counsel for Ethiopia. David was a prodigious worker, and to observe him drafting an arbitral award — and these rarely less than 100 pages — was for us a constant source of admiration and envy.

These academic and professional dossiers, and the reputation David earned from both, led to his appointment as one of the presiding commissioners for the United Nations’ Compensation Commission for Claims Arising out of the 1991 Gulf War. There he had the enormous portfolio of public and private claims for the direct and consequential damages arising from Iraq’s destruction of Kuwait’s oil-production facilities. Along with this responsibility, David was charged with the separate role of overseeing other panels’ work from the perspective of ensuring the consistency in substance and form of the decisions issued by all panels. 

While still at Berkeley David became a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Public International Law; he also served ‎as president of the American Society of International Law and as president of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration. At the law school he also served from 2002 to 2012 as co-director, with Harry Scheiber, of its internationally-recognized Law of the Sea Institute.

In 2013 London’s Kings College was the beneficiary of the largest private donation ever made to a European law school. It resulted in a new facility and the renaming of what is now the Sir Dickson Poon Kings College, with an enlarged and younger faculty, and the financial support for what became a new student body. This required a new leader, and to no one’s surprise, though to his Berkeley colleagues’ regret, David Caron was the overwhelming choice. David and his wife, Susan, always enjoyed new challenges, and London became their new home. In 2015 his career came full circle with his appointment as a U.S. member of the Iran-U.S. Arbitral Tribunal Claims Commission.

In the sadly and unexpectedly brief time left to him, David met — more than met — every expectation of those who entrusted him with these opportunities and challenges. He died in London on February 20, 2018, at the age of 65.

David Caron is survived by his wife, Susan, and the children of his first marriage, Peter and Marina.

Richard Buxbaum
Laurel Fletcher
Harry Scheiber