For many reasons, 2007 was not a particularly good year for me. As I was a teenage boy then, most of these reasons involved teenage girls, one in particular. However, another reason that 2007 was lame was because that year marked the end of the original run of Gilmore Girls.
Thankfully, Netflix has brought back Lorelai, Rory, Emily, and all the rest of Gilmore Girls in the four-part mini-series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. In total, there’s six hours of fast-talkin’, pop-culture referencin’, Stars Hollowin’ goodness.
Look, if you’re reading this and you loved Gilmore Girls, you should absolutely watch A Year in the Life. In fact, you’ve probably watched it already. Write in with your thoughts.
I recently had lunch with a non-lawyer colleague whom I have long respected, and he asked me a very interesting question. He wanted to know if, during my 43-year legal career as a transactional lawyer, I had ever found it difficult to do the “right thing.” I understood the reason for his question.
During the Great Recession of 2008, I often asked myself what all of the attorneys had been doing when their clients were bringing so many toxic transactions to the public markets, causing so much damage to our economy, and resulting in their clients paying billions of dollars in fines and settlements to various regulatory agencies.
I had no trouble answering his question — I told him that I had never found it difficult to do what I thought was the “right thing.” I then told him some true stories about some of my experiences. He encouraged me to write them down so that I could share them with others, so here they are. Note that the names have been changed to protect both the guilty and the innocent.
“Gosh, there is so much stuff,” Laurence Tribe says, as I begin our interview in the library of his home in Cambridge with his partner Elizabeth on a chair beside him. And we are off to the races.
Tribe, 74, is Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and the United States’ preeminent constitutional law scholar. A.B., Mathematics, summa cum laude, Harvard College. J.D., magna cum laude, Harvard Law School. Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard University. Lead counsel in 37 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Author of 12 books and more than 85 scholarly articles – including the most cited legal text or treatise of the 20th century, American Constitutional Law. Nearly a dozen honorary degrees. Constitutional consultant to the Marshall Islands, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and South Africa. And avid Twitterer, on occasion tweeting more than 20 times a day. Check him out at @tribelaw.
The battle-cry of the American Revolution: “give me liberty or give me death!” Reflecting upon my first year living in America and upon what I have learned in criminal law, I find it hard to believe that Americans truly value liberty. What I see is the human spirit crushed under the yoke of an overly oppressive criminal justice system. I fail to understand how to logically reconcile over-criminalization and mass incarceration with the famous American love of freedom.
The rhetoric justifying this draconian criminal system does not help. Classmates speak of deterrence and signals – which is simply a way to sugar coat what is truly happening: we are scaring people into submission. But is this the sort of human we wish to foster? A being whose conduct does not flow from virtue but from fear. This is our vision of humanity’s highest form or greatest potential? Do we want a society of craven and vindictive worms that curl up lest they get stepped on? The idea that we must design our society according to such a vision reveals a troubling pessimism regarding human nature and a profound lack of ambition regarding the possibilities for society.
And this is all for the laudable (and supposedly necessary) goal of self-preservation. But the emphasis on preserving society neglects the more important antecedent question: is it the sort of society that is worth preserving? What if the methods through which our society ensures its survival creates the sort of society that is undeserving of survival?
A few days ago, I spoke to a Harvard Law alumnus, inter alia, about the recent presidential election. The alumnus had supported Barack Obama, worked as a plaintiff-side civil rights litigator, and also happens to be black. Ordinarily, he votes Democratic. Yet this year, he voted for Donald Trump.
There are many people to blame for Trump’s victory. But one among the blameworthy is you, dear reader. The Democrat. The liberal who’s too cool to be a Democrat. The leftist who’s too cool to be a liberal. When the American Left has lost a black Harvard-Law-educated civil rights attorney to Donald Trump, it has done something very, very wrong.
- The Republican establishment since 1960
- The media
- James Comey
- Minorities who voted for Trump
- Democrats/liberals who didn’t vote
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Jill Stein voters
- Whites who voted for Trump
- Liberals who couldn’t stop labeling every Trump voter and/or white person a racist
- Liberals who didn’t call out the people in group 9
*The ordering is somewhat arbitrary, but I do mean to say that I saw each of these individuals/groups as but-for causes of Trump’s victory.
 A friend of mine would have replaced 4. with “Women who voted for Trump” (and I imagine 8. with “Men who voted for Trump”). I suppose that exposes our respective biases.
Dear Heather Mac Donald,
In September, you came to Harvard Law School on the invitation of The Federalist Society to discuss the findings of your new book, The War on Cops. Because the audience was left with a negligible amount of time to engage, I wanted to take this time to respond.
Your credentials are very impressive, and you came equipped with a significant amount of data in support of a narrative that there is currently a “War on Cops.” However, I wonder if you have ever read these words from Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous letter written from Birmingham Jail:
Harvard Law School has a proud history of being at the forefront of progressive tort law. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, who studied law at Harvard College, authored the landmark decision of Brown v. Kendall in 1850, the first judicial opinion to recognize negligence.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. studied law at Harvard at a time when tort law was an incoherent ragbag of miscellaneous wrongs still shaped by the writ of trespass. Holmes’ 1873 book, The Theory of Torts, revolutionized tort law by breaking civil wrongs into the triad of negligence, strict liability, and intentional torts. This division is now taught in every law school in the country.
This past election season was wrought with division and attacks on the racial, religious, cultural, and gender identities that are integral to the lives of so many Americans. These attacks on our communities and core aspects of our identities are not new. Nearly one year ago, on November 19, the portraits of African-American tenured faculty in the halls of Wasserstein were defaced with black tape. Then and now, in the face of discriminatory acts, our student body has gathered to discuss the importance of awareness, to recognize that racism and oppressive actions are not condoned by our community, and to value diversity both in the legal profession and in legal education.
Continue reading “Honoring Diverse Voices in Legal Education”
Like an exclamation point to his entire campaign, Donald Trump appointed Steve Bannon – a man who, at the very least, has perpetuated anti-Semitism – to be his chief strategist. A message that so many Jewish children in the United States grew up with now rings truer than ever. That message? Don’t get too comfortable.
It is something our parents tell us again and again – you are accepted now, but you never know what tomorrow holds. We are raised on stories of neighbors who turned against our grandparents, of friends who looked away, and a government that did the unthinkable. For Jewish people who can pass as ‘white,’ these stories make us hyper-aware that whiteness granted can be revoked at any time, and that control of that decision always belongs to someone else. Continue reading “We Remember”
Although many of us on the left viewed the 2016 election as a referendum on Donald Trump, the exit polls indicate that voters’ views on Hillary Clinton, not Trump, were a more decisive factor in the final tally. Clinton voters were significantly more likely to vote out of enthusiasm for the former Secretary of State, while Trump voters were primarily voting out of dislike for other options. In other words, while bigotry, sexism and downright disgusting behavior undoubtedly played a significant role in the 2016 presidential contest, there was a consequential portion of voters for whom the election was a referendum on what the Democratic Party represents to them.
To many voters Clinton, Obama, and our other Democratic leaders represent public institutions—institutions that HLS holds a unique responsibility towards. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government are largely a manifestation of our legal system. The nation’s highest ranked law schools, like HLS, are idolized in the legal profession and have a large role in defining the norms in that legal system. Indeed, an overwhelming proportion of our Democratic leadership graduated from these very schools. In this light, there is a lens through which the election can be viewed as a referendum on HLS itself. Continue reading “How We Can View The Election as a Referendum on HLS”
I have observed in recent days that many people on this campus seem shellshocked by the election result. Not so me. As careful readers of my previous columns will note, I have always assumed that Donald Trump would be our 45th president. To the half-a-dozen of you who read my previous columns, and failed to heed my warnings, you have only yourselves to blame. How many times did I try to tell everyone—the Dean, my fellow-classmates, the professors in whose classes I am nominally enrolled—that this day was at hand? How many times did they say to me, “Oh no, Fenno, you’re crazy!” Oh, I’m crazy, am I? I’m crazy? Would a crazy person LAUGH LIKE THIS????!!!!!!
No. No one is laughing now. This is serious.
The liberal is truly a surprising creature. A liberal believes in reform but does not wish to confront the fact that the problems in our society implicate its very constitution – capitalism, patriarchy, etc – despite speaking the inherited language of “human rights,” “equal outcomes,” and so on. They believe they can endlessly feast on hypocrisy without getting indigestion as though the rest of society will tolerate their nonsense indefinitely. Trump’s election demonstrated how out of touch Harvard’s liberals are from the realities of the society they presume to lead.
During the election watch “party” in Belinda Hall I witnessed students’ reactions as a Trump victory became more certain by the hour. Some drifted listlessly around the lounge. Others drank themselves to a stupor or cried. Yet just the day before, many of them were utterly apolitical and content with the general direction and organization of America – many the same kids who didn’t breathe anywhere near a picket line when HUDS was on strike. The harsh truth is that most Harvard liberals orient their ambitions toward a lucrative and comfortable life – a sort of life that is only possible within the context of a general system of exploitation. As such, the Harvard liberal is totally complacent in perpetuating the sort of society whose immanent tendencies produced a Trump presidency. Thus, what truly happened on election night wasn’t really so much disgust at the nasty state of affairs in the country but terror in realizing that the accustomed logic with its rewarding prerogatives for the Harvard liberal is not guaranteed after all. For I refuse to believe that those who already stomach so much injustice and yet proceed toward their sweet corporate gigs are genuinely revolted by a Trump presidency. Anybody with half a brain knows that the injustices Trump represents are injustices that are constantly reproduced in throughout the country (and world). Continue reading “The Death of Liberalism”