George Mason University announced yesterday that Atlanta law professor Henry G. Manne will take over as dean of the university's law school, ending the controversial tenure of Ralph Norvell.
GMU President George W. Johnson said Manne, a professor of law at Emory University and the founder and director of a center that promotes economic analysis of the law, will take over the 655-student Arlington-based law school on July 1. He will be paid $100,000 a year.
Manne's succession ends the sometimes turbulent reign of Norvell, whom some faculty members and law students tried to oust in 1984 amid complaints that he was authoritative and insensitive.
Norvell, who was paid $77,600 a year, told university officials two years ago that he planned to retire this year when he reached age 65. Johnson said Norvell would remain on the faculty as a professor.
Norvell became dean of the school in 1975 when it was the International School of Law. The state took over the school in 1978.
Norvell's supporters said the criticism of him was misdirected, contending that the controversy stemmed from his efforts to raise the school's standards.
Last week, for the first time, the law school won full accreditation from the American Bar Association's House of Delegates, one of whose members described it as "a very sound law school."
In recent years the school has reversed criticism that it neglected its physical plant, paid low faculty salaries and failed to establish proper resources for its operation. The increase in Manne's pay over Norvell's reflects the efforts to upgrade salaries schoolwide, said university spokeswoman Helen Ackerman.
"Ralph Norvell is the reason we have a law school. The university, the community and the state are deeply in his debt," said prominent Fairfax County lawyer and developer John T. (Til) Hazel Jr., president of the university's independent fund-raising foundation and an early proponent of the law school.
Johnson also defended Norvell. "Any time you have a rapidly developing organization, you're going to get a lot of stress and strain within it. Whatever strains there were, were well within the normal range," he said.
Johnson said he hoped Manne's administration will make as "much progress" as Norvell's. Manne, he said, "has the world before him and we have every intention of giving him all the resources we can muster."
Manne, 57, the author of 12 books and more than 100 articles, has developed an international reputation for scholarly work on the relationship between law and economics.
The holder of several advanced law degrees, he was a professor at George Washington University Law School from 1962 to 1968. He has told the university that he plans to relocate the Law and Economics Center he founded at Emory to GMU. The center promotes the use of economics in a variety of legal areas.