Category Archives: Opinion

Commentary by members of the Harvard Law community.

Opinion  /  February 25, 2015  / 

Letter to the Editor: In Defense of Dershowitz

TO THE HARVARD LAW RECORD: Anna Joseph and Kerry Richards do a disservice in their criticism of Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz published in the Opinion section of the issue of February 18, 2015. Dershowitz, it is now widely known, was recently accused in a court filing by a victim of child sexual abuse who is now a 31-year-old adult. This accusation was filed in a case in which Dershowitz is not a party. Rather, a former client of his is the party, and so Dershowitz has no standing to file a defense of himself, including a motion to strike the gratuitous accusation. (I say that the accusation is “gratuitous” because it is of no evidentiary or legal moment in the lawsuit or in the matter in which the filing was made.) Dershowitz has widely protested, in his intervention motion filed in court, and in his public statements in the news … Continue reading

Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

Dershowitz: Responding to the Charge that I Didn’t Show “Compassion” to the Woman Who Falsely Accused Me of Rape

In an article in the Harvard Law Record, Anna Joseph and Kerry Richards accuse me of not showing compassion toward a 31-year-old woman who deliberately, willfully and mendaciously accused me of raping her on more than six occasions nearly fifteen years ago. I have deep compassion for victims of rape and trafficking, and I understand the reasons why Joseph and Richards are concerned about the revictimization of actual victims. But Joseph and Richards have it backwards in this case. The 31-year-old perjurer is not my “victim.” I am her victim. There is no excuse or justification for a mature woman victimizing an entirely innocent person by falsely accusing him of crimes others may have committed against her. Fortunately, the charges against me are not only totally made up but are provably untrue. Jane Doe #3 accused me of having had sex with her on a private Caribbean island where I … Continue reading

Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

Open Letter of Dissent from WLA Members

The presidents of the Harvard Women’s Law Association and the Law and International Development Society recently issued a statement announcing their decision to withdraw their International Women’s Day honor from Robin Steinberg, Executive Director of the Bronx Defenders. As members, chairs, and directors within the Women’s Law Association’s large structure, we are writing to express our deep disappointment with that decision. The Women’s Law Association has a history of feminist activism and has done remarkable work over the years. We have the utmost respect for the women involved in this organization. We also understand that the leaders who made the choice were under immense pressure from the HLS Administration, alumni and donors, and police organizations threatening to picket the International Women’s Day Exhibit. Nevertheless, the ultimate choice to rescind Ms. Steinberg’s honor–made by a small number of students without the knowledge of the Executive Board or General Board–does not reflect … Continue reading

Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

Beyond Josh Lyman Politics: How The West Wing Miseducated My Political Generation

A few years ago, Josh Lyman spoke at Harvard to a packed room of starstruck student politicos. It wasn’t the real Josh Lyman, of course, because he isn’t real: he was the fictional Deputy Chief of Staff played by Bradley Whitford on the Aaron Sorkin television drama, The West Wing. It wasn’t Bradley Whitford either, though his visit to Harvard’s Institute of Politics a few years later would also pack the house. Rather, the speaker was Jim Messina, who was at the time the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Obama administration’s real West Wing. It didn’t make much difference which one of the three – Lyman, Whitford or Messina – was in front of us in the room that day, because, to many of my fellow young liberals, dreams of being in The West Wing and in the West Wing have blended together. It’s hard to exaggerate the role … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

On the Large Potential of Small Claims Courts

When I was in law school, I bought a laptop that turned out to be a lemon. It would overheat during class, sending the cooling fan into overdrive, and by the end of an hour it whirred loud enough to turn heads several rows away. Soon it started to crash. “System failure,” the screen would read upon rebooting. And then, two years after I bought it, the machine crashed for the last time: “massive system failure,” it said. This was not a cut-rate computer. It was a Toshiba – supposedly one of the best brands – and I bought it from a reputable national retailer for $1,500. So I called the store. The manager’s response was as predictable as it was unsatisfactory. Since the warranty had expired, the store – OK, it was Micro Center on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, but it easily could have been another – wouldn’t even … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

What Harvard Law Students Should Know About Equal Justice Works

A few weeks ago, I was visiting with Ralph Nader HLS ’58. I have known Ralph for most of my life and have seen how his dedication to the public interest has created enormous impact on so many issues including consumer rights, car safety, protecting whistleblowers, and corporate misconduct to name a few. While Ralph is extraordinary, he is certainly not alone. Thousands of lawyers have dedicated their careers to helping under-served communities and causes. The vast majority of these lawyers will say they are incredibly happy with their choice, even though it meant a great deal of personal and financial sacrifice. It is hard but fulfilling work. Here’s the problem: As the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow, we face a crisis in who has access to justice. There is just one legal aid attorney available for every 6,415 low-income Americans. About 80 percent of defendants … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

Letter to the Editor

I write as a co-founder of the HLS International Women’s Day Photo Exhibit (just last year) and as a former LIDS Co-President in response to the decision by WLA and LIDS not to include Robin Steinberg in the International Women’s Day Photo Exhibit. I am no longer part of the decision-making process, but I, like many members of the HLS community, am disappointed that she will not be included and I hope we will have the opportunity to host her on campus in the near future. After conversations with those organizing the exhibit this year, I would venture to say that despite their difficult decision, they are equally disappointed not to include her this year, and that the decision was not made lightly or without awareness of the many conflicting issues it raised. While I share the frustration that my fellow students and members of the HLS community felt at … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

OPIA Statement on Bronx Defenders

Since its inception, the Bronx Defenders has served tens of thousands of indigent Bronx residents facing criminal charges, while also assisting community members with housing, family, child-custody, immigration, and school-related issues. Under the leadership of its Founder and Executive Director, Robin Steinberg, the Bronx Defenders has appropriately been nationally recognized for its efforts to address the very real problem of access to justice. It has played an instrumental role in training public defender offices across the country in its holistic model, and every year teaches committed new lawyers – including HLS graduates – to be superior client advocates. While we abhor the violent implications of the video at the heart of this controversy, we support the hardworking, passionate Bronx attorneys who are continuing to provide exceptional criminal and civil legal assistance to those who need it most. And we remain inspired by Robin Steinberg and the Bronx Defenders’ efforts to … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

Why I Oppose the Death Penalty: Redemption is Always Possible, so Killing is Always Wrong

Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever done. Hold onto that thought for a moment. Now ask yourself: Does that moment define you? Should that moment define you? If you’re like me, you’ll find that even though we all make mistakes in life, even though we all fall short of our greatest ideals and hopes, our worst decisions don’t necessarily reflect our true character. How many of us did stupid things when we were younger? How many have committed acts we regret? As we age, we make mistakes. As we make mistakes, we learn and grow. How does it make sense, then, to brand convicted felons as permanently “unworthy” of life? If we were truly rational and consistent in our moral outrage, this possibility would be wholly untenable — for they, like us, possess the capacity to change — yet we persist in our delusional thinking about retributive punishment, character, and … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  February 24, 2015  / 

What Harvard Law School Students Need to Know About How They Can Help College and High School Teachers Introduce Tax Policy Issues in Their Curriculum

Here’s a challenge: Try to find a serious discussion of our nation’s tax policies in the curriculum of any liberal arts college or university. Good luck! The subject rarely earns more than minor attention even in economics courses. And it’s virtually absent from our high schools. No one should be surprised. Consider this anecdote. In the late 1990s, I met with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. to see if he would write a blurb for my forthcoming book, If Americans Really Understood the Income Tax. A favorite professor of mine when I was a Harvard undergraduate decades earlier, Schlesinger remained one of our country’s most distinguished U.S. historians. His initial comment: “But John, I know nothing about taxation.” One reason: Never having been taught about our tax laws, let alone tax policy issues, professors as well as high school teachers have little idea what to teach and how to teach it. So … Continue reading