Tag: law schools

Free Speech Belongs on Campuses Too

Speaking of free speech, last night I had an Obamacare panel at Widener University, which is currently having its own little speech-related brouhaha.  (Getting there was a bit of a hassle because I was held up at the Wilmington Amtrak station by Vice President Biden’s entourage — but I didn’t end up in a closet, so I guess it could have been worse.)

There are strange things afoot at the tiny Delaware law school, specifically to tenured professor Lawrence Connell, who also happens to be the adviser to the school’s Federalist Society chapter. From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

Widener University School of Law is attempting to fire longtime criminal law professor Lawrence Connell by charging him with dubious violations of the school’s harassment code, such as using the term “black folks” in class and using the names of law school Dean Linda L. Ammons and other law school colleagues as characters in class hypotheticals. Although a faculty panel has already recommended that Widener drop its “dismissal for cause” proceedings against Connell, administrators have reportedly induced students to issue further complaints under a new process that forces Connell to keep the details of the proceedings secret. Connell, who is represented by attorney Thomas S. Neuberger, also requested help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

“Not only do the charges against Professor Connell appear to be either unsubstantiated or totally meritless, but even after the faculty refused to assent to his firing Widener has found a new, ‘confidential’ procedure to use against him,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Professor Connell has already addressed the charges, but now he cannot publicly discuss the details of his prosecution out of fear of punishment for ‘retaliatory action’ if he reveals them.”

Although Widener is a private university, a faculty member receiving such treatment on dubious charges should raise some eyebrows in legal academia. If there is something to the charges, let them be aired in public. While this is not a constitutional issue, I’m sure the law school administration is well aware of the importance of both due process and intellectual freedom. To that end, either the professor should be afforded the dignity of defending himself to his accusers or this nonsense should be put to bed.

You can read more about the case here. Also, if the state of today’s law schools interests you, I cannot recommend strongly enough my colleague Walter Olson’s new book, Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America.

Thanks to Jonathan Blanks for his help with this blogpost.

Graduating Law Students - Come Work for Liberty!

For almost two year now, Cato has been running a highly successful legal associate program.  Talented recent law school grads have come to work for us during the time that their law firms have “deferred” their start dates (from a few months to a full year), with commensurate stipends.  The firm deferral phenomenon seems to be mostly played out as firms have adjusted their employment policies, but some law schools are now picking up the slack by creating post-grad fellowships with similar conditions.

Now that we’re again approaching graduation season, I thought I’d put out another call for more potential legal associates.  We can always use the extra brain, you can always use Cato on your resume, and your firms/schools can always use your getting substantive legal experience/counting as “employed” for US News rankings – we all win!

And so, the Cato Institute invites graduating (and recently graduated) law students and others with firm deferrals or post-grad funding – or simply a period of unemployment – to apply to work at our Center for Constitutional Studies. This is an opportunity to assist projects ranging from Supreme Court amicus briefs to policy papers to the Cato Supreme Court Review.  Start/end dates are flexible.  Interested students and graduates should email a cover letter, resume, transcript, and writing sample, along with any specific details of their availability to Jonathan Blanks at jblanks [at] cato [dot] org.  Note again that this announcement is for a non-paying job: we’ll give you a workspace, good experience, and an entree into the DC policy world, but we will not help your financial bottom line.  You don’t have to be a deferred law firm associate or funded by your school, but you do have to be able to afford not being paid by us.

Please feel free to pass the above information to your friends and colleagues.

For information on Cato’s programs for non-graduating students – or graduates who would like to be part of our internship program (which does come with some minimal compensation) – contact Joey Coon at jcoon [at] cato [dot] org.

Schools for Misrule at Cato Tomorrow

Yesterday was the publication date for my new book, Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America, and tomorrow afternoon (Thursday, March 3) at 4 p.m. you can catch me in person talking about it at Cato’s headquarters or watch online at the above link. Commenting will be the Hon. Douglas Ginsburg, distinguished federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Cato’s Roger Pilon will be moderating. Registration is required for the in-person version and seating not guaranteed.

From Cato’s description:

The ideas that emanate from the nation’s law schools in one generation often wind up shaping law and national policy in the next. But as Cato senior fellow Walter Olson argues in this new book, for more than four decades the nation’s law schools have been a hatchery of bad ideas, from tort and contract theories to class actions, environmental law, racial reparations, the recasting of domestic policy differences as questions of international human rights, and more. Yet the common theme is to confer power and status on the schools’ own graduates and faculty, as law pervades ever wider areas of life. The pipe dream of training up philosopher-monarchs, Olson says, distracts law schools from their genuinely useful function of training competent, ethical, and suitably humble practitioners of the law.

Publisher’s Weekly calls the book “hard-hitting,” “witty,” “cutting-edge commentary,” and “astute.” Commentary magazine runs a lengthy excerpt in its new (March) issue, available here (subscribers or individual purchase). A different excerpt is online at Minding the Campus (free). You can read about some of the early reaction to the book here and here, catch Cato’s audio podcast interview with me, or see whether I’m visiting your city on my spring speaking tour.

Schools for Misrule Is Off To the Printer

I’m happy to report that my forthcoming book on bad ideas from the law schools, Schools for Misrule, just went off to the printer. Encounter Books commissioned a terrific jacket design (by Tamaye Perry) which you can preview here. Here’s the description from the book’s jacket:

Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America

By Walter Olson

From Barack Obama (Harvard and Chicago) to Bill and Hillary Clinton (Yale), many of our national leaders today emerge from the rarefied air of the nation’s top law schools. The ideas taught there in one generation often wind up shaping national policy in the next.

The trouble is, as Walter Olson explains in this book, our elite law schools keep churning out ideas that are catastrophically bad for America. Rights to sue anyone over anything in class actions? Hatched in legal academia. Court orders mandating mass release of prison inmates? Ditto. The movement for slavery reparations? Court takeovers of school funding, at taxpayers’ expense? It’s not by coincidence, Olson argues, that these bad ideas all tend to confer more power on the law schools’ own graduates. In the overlawyered society that results, they are the ones who become the real rulers. And the worst is yet to come, the book demonstrates, as a fast-rising movement in the law schools demands that sovereignty over U.S. legal disputes be handed over to international law and transnational courts.

Some imagine that the law schools possess a finer, purer moral sensitivity than the everyday America outside their walls. (“Welcome to the Republic of Conscience!” Yale Law dean Harold Koh announced to incoming students.) But as this book shows, the pipe dream of training philosopher-monarchs not only leads to one policy disaster after
another, but distracts law schools from the most useful function they can serve: training competent, ethical and suitably humble lawyers for tomorrow.

On the back of the jacket are terrific blurbs from star law professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown (famous most recently for the ObamaCare court challenge), bestselling author and attorney Philip K. Howard (The Death of Common Sense), and perennial libertarian TV hero John Stossel.

You can pre-order the book at great prices from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookseller. Publication date is February 15, so copies should arrive before you know it.