In the aftermath of Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation, I saw a lot of hopelessness, both abstract and functional. I’ve struggled in the past weeks to articulate what that means for The Record. If you haven’t noticed, our website looks terrible at the moment. That is partially not my fault, since we had a malware issue recently that required me to update everything and thus lose the web design, and partially entirely my fault, because I don’t know how to fix it and if I’m being honest, I’m not going to learn. I’m staring at my belly button a bit here, but it feels analogous to this moment in history: Everything is terrible, and it’s not really our fault, and we don’t know how to fix it.
One year ago, I published Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Mission. At the time, Harvard Law was inviting Supreme Court justices, senators and other famous alumni back to campus to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the legal giant’s 1817 founding. But while the administration was celebrating, public interest law students were sounding the alarm: of their school overtaken by corporate interests and losing relevance to the average American; of a watchdog of the law largely asleep as the institutions of the rule of law and equal justice under law were under siege; and of a law school community that had lost track of its declared mission to “educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society.”
Our Bicentennial Crisis aimed to compile and surface these concerns. It documented: first, the crisis of mass exclusion from legal power for the average American (in the criminal justice, civil justice and political systems); second, Harvard Law’s failure to address this crisis, and the inaccurate excuses our community tends to give for not addressing it; third, what accounts for this civic deficit; and fourth, twelve reform proposals that aim to help us better live up to our mission. An electronic version of the full report is here, but below is a summary of Our Bicentennial Crisis’ findings. Continue reading “12 Ways Dean Manning Can Respond to The Crisis of Legal Inequality”
Harvard Law School has a problem, and that problem is Brett M. Kavanaugh. In 2008, Harvard Law School hired Judge Kavanaugh to teach key rule of law concepts, including separation of powers and the role of the Senate in appointing Supreme Court Justices. The rule of law is an abstract concept, and yet it is one of the most precious fibers holding democratic society together. Crucially, one of the roles of judges and legal academics is to make this abstract concept concrete. In contrast to this esteemed academic role, Kavanaugh’s recent testimony and behavior during his Senate Confirmation hearings makes a mockery of the U.S. Constitution, confirms his disrespect for women, and threatens America’s rule of law.
The credible allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee and Harvard Law School lecturer Brett Kavanaugh have left us with more questions than answers. Given that Kavanaugh’s class, “The Supreme Court since 2005,” is still on the schedule for winter term of this academic year, we have a few questions for the Harvard Law School administration.
On June 16, 1944, the State of South Carolina executed George Stinney, a fourteen-year-old black boy who was convicted of murder by an all-white jury, following a sham trial. Seventy years later, the State of Ohio executed Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old black boy after no trial. Twenty-four days after a white police officer executed Tamir, George was finally exonerated. And so George and Tamir, although executed by different states, in different times, and in different ways, are bound together by their striking commonalities: they were both young, black boys who were executed by the State after doing no wrong. George was executed via the post-trial mechanism, and Tamir was executed via the no-trial mechanism.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, only 31 US states and the federal government have the death penalty on the books, with 19 states having done away with the practice. In actuality, all 50 states administer the death penalty, and all but three states have executed at least one person thus far this year.
In 1999, both of the co-founders of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association (“WWCDA”), Karen Popp and Beth Wilkinson, had recently left government service. Popp had been Associate White House Counsel to President Clinton and before that she was in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice and also had served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Wilkinson had been an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, and later was one of the lead prosecutors in the Oklahoma City bombing cases. Upon leaving government, the two joined their respective law firms as partners, wanting to be White Collar defense attorneys for corporate America. Popp went to Sidley Austin LLP and Wilkinson went to Latham & Watkins.
Most Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing: looming fiscal challenges, made more severe by the recent tax cuts, require that something be done about the budget. According to this view, we didn’t have enough money before, and we have less money now, putting ever more spending on the nation’s “credit card.”
Although lawyers and law students might (wrongly) think broad macroeconomic issues such as distribution and entitlements should be left to economists and policy wonks, they should recognize that fiscal policy involves questions of individual rights and justice in a narrow, legal sense. Courts determine what due process requires in part by evaluating the “financial cost.” Cash-strapped government entities rely on fines and fees for funding, inevitably preying on vulnerable communities. There’s also the massive crisis in legal services, with understaffed and underfunded public defender and civil legal aid offices facing overwhelming caseloads. The results are a disaster, and in each instance, individual rights are subject to fiscal considerations.
We, members of the Progressive Jewish Alliance at Harvard Law School, deplore the Israeli government’s violent response to Palestinian protests in Gaza. We join groups around the world in calling for an end to the wanton killing of demonstrators, an end to the siege of Gaza, and ultimately for a democratic future in which both Israelis and Palestinians may live lives of dignity, security, and freedom.
Nothing occurs in a vacuum. While many who defend Israel’s actions ask, “What would you do in the face of protesters seeking to breach the border?,” we ask a different question: “What level of oppression would drive people to risk their lives protesting against one of the world’s most powerful militaries?”
What is our Class Day ceremony about? It is a celebration of our hard work as students in law school, and of our induction into the professional world of the law. These are honors whose meaning and value depend in every ounce on the vitality and integrity of the legal system itself.
And so we are lucky, as law school graduates, to be entering into a political environment where the rule of law is of foundational, universal import. And where lawyers wield real, respected authority in the enforcement of law and the pursuit of justice.
But that political environment is currently in crisis. The president’s politics, apparently shared by a large number of high-up Executive and Congressional officials, betray a consistent thread of anti-democratic, authoritarian values. Between denying objective truth, threatening the free press, indulging nativist demagoguery, endorsing racist stereotypes, persecuting unauthorized immigrants, interfering in the free market, laughing off due process, selling public influence for private gain, compromising American interests to hostile foreign governments, undermining public faith in the judiciary, and obstructing independent prosecutorial and intelligence agencies, it is not too alarmist to say that the political foundation of this country, and the place of law within it, are under threat. Continue reading “Why I Am Disappointed with Jeff Flake”
This May marks the 65th anniversary of the first class of women to graduate from Harvard Law School. In 1953, 12 women walked with their class; next month, 280 women will cross the stage and enter the ranks of HLS alumni. In the intervening years, this law school has seen changes of which we should be proud. We now have more than one bathroom for women to use, for starters. Women are no longer just a fraction of the student body: this year’s graduating class is 47.5 percent female, and next year we will have the first majority-female graduation ceremony. Women are on the faculty and in the administration, and feature prominently in accounts of the school’s most illustrious alumni. The Women’s Law Association (WLA) is the largest organization on campus, and female students hold 52 percent of the leadership roles in student organizations.
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was a lawyer. Each year, when the Torah portion pertaining to Jethro is read at Central Synagogue in midtown Manhattan, a person is asked to give a talk relating to the law at a dinner following Friday night services. On 13 February 2009, New York University School of Law professor of ethics Stephen Gillers gave the Jethro talk. With minor changes, it is reprinted below:
When Ron Tabak e-mailed me about giving the Jethro talk this year, I was in Cambodia speaking about the American legal system to graduate law students at the Royal University of Law and Economics. That experience offered one further example of the intense interest globally in the rule of law in the United States. To my mind, the rule of law is America’s best export. If, in other nations, we can instill our respect for the rule of law, an independent bar and an independent judiciary, we will go a long way toward the creation of democratic institutions worldwide.
But our achievements in establishing a nation based on the rule of law should not be allowed to obscure problems with the work of lawyers here at home. When Ron and I agreed on the title of the talk, I was not yet clear on what I would say about honour and the legal profession although I had some vague ideas. Events this autumn, however, have clarified what needs to be said. When talking of honour, one could hardly begin in a better place than the events surrounding the fall of Bernard Madoff. I will then move to the question posed in my title and conclude with references to the Bible.
What I find most remarkable about the Bernard Madoff story so far is that his sons turned him in. Bernard Madoff confessed to his sons and on the advice of counsel, they turned him in.1 And the whole business came crashing down. Continue reading “Is law (still) an honorable profession?”
On April 23, 2018, seven prominent alumni sent an open letter to Dean Manning requesting a public response to and public hearing on Our Bicentennial Crisis, the Record report on Harvard Law’s public interest mission. The letter is copied below:
Dear Dean Manning,
Last October, during the two hundredth anniversary of Harvard Law School, Pete Davis (3L) and his colleagues issued a report titled, Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Mission. Its contents were of considerable interest to more than a few students, faculty, and deans from other law schools. As you know, on February 7, 2018, four faculty members met with a sizable number of students for an evening discussion. In addition, The Harvard Law Record has devoted considerable space to the report and the reactions to its recommendations and analyses. Continue reading “Open Letter From Alumni to Dean Manning: Respond to Our Bicentennial Crisis”
Evelyn and Hannah talk to Professor Richard Lazarus, environmental law expert and giant of the Supreme Court Bar, about his well-planned career, some of his more famous articles, and a failed party he and housemate John Roberts tried to throw.
Editor’s note: We used a Google Form to conduct this poll, and as such, it was impossible to prevent 1Ls and 2Ls from voting without identifying all voters. The voters in this data set should not be treated as a sample size representative of the Class of 2018. It is possible that this poll was circulated in some social circles and not others, and we did not share it anywhere except on our website and on our Facebook page.