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Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash

[ 208 ] March 4, 2013 |

This is the first in a series of posts. Others in the series can be found here and here.

Updated below

A distinguished lawyer asks:

Brian Leiter, aka the Director of the Center for Law, Philosophy & Human Values, while sheltered behind the security that tenure gives him from any consequences that may flow from his blog, is vigorously seeking to “out” various people in the legal community, for having committed the grave offense of criticizing Leiter’s views. In addition, he is smugly expressing his belief that the destruction of these peoples’ anonymity will have a negative impact on their careers.

The purpose of tenure is not to be a wall from behind which someone can bully and threaten those who do not enjoy the protections of tenure.

Do “philosopy and human values” require that Brian Leiter agree that as a consequence of this conduct, he should voluntarily surrender his tenured status before any further efforts to out people who do not enjoy the protections of tenure? Should the Dean of Chicago law school impose this condition on him lest he bring tenure rights into disrepute?

These intriguing questions were inspired by the following astonishing post:

We Get Mail: Thomas R. Grover, Esq. Edition

For criticizing Mr. Campos last week, I received the following insolent e-mail:

You’re a “Law and ______” Professor, not a lawyer. How would you know how to ‘think like a lawyer’?

Thomas R. Grover, Esq.

Goodsell & Olsen, LLP

10155 W. Twain Ave., Ste. 100

Las Vegas, NV 89147

Tel: (702) 869-6261

Fax: (702 869-8243

Cell: (702) 900-3003

tom@goodsellolsen.com

www.goodsellolsen.com

Mr. Grover is a law graduate of the University of Nebraska, one of those law schools that students should still be considering, even in the current market, and notwithstanding Mr. Grover. But it is odd that he thinks that being a lawyer and a philosopher involves a contraction, rather than an expansion, of knowledge and competence. In any case, I replied to Mr. Grover as follows:

Dear Mr. Grover,

Are you actually an attorney at the firm in question? If so, why do you not appear on the website? Do your supervisors know that you are using the firm’s e-mail to send impertinent and juvenile messages to other professionals?

“Thinking like a lawyer” refers to a style of reasoning and analysis that is exemplified in the law section of appellate briefs and in judicial opinions; I assume you must be familiar with both genres. It encompasses, for example, the use of analogical reasoning to distinguish precedents or propose extensions or developments of existing doctrine, but also involves techniques of statutory and constitutional construction, the use of arguments from authority, facility with the law/fact distinctions, and so on. Again, merely looking at the chapter headings of Schauer’s book Thinking Like a Lawyer would illuminate this apparently opaque topic for you. Alternatively, you might read Edward Levi’s classic book An Introduction to Legal Reasoning; Mr. Levi was the former Dean of my Law School, as well as former Attorney General of the United States.

Of course, there are more skills involved in being a lawyer than thinking like a lawyer. There is industry-specific knowledge, know-how with respect to how local courts or regulatory agencies approach statutory language, rhetorical talent, as well as a range of psychological and interpersonal skills that are important. For example, most good lawyers I know, among my family and friends, exhibit maturity and professional judgment, that would prevent them from sending insolent e-mails from their’s firm account to other professionals. I will be sure to send a copy of this entire correspondence to the name partners of your firm.

I do think we law professors, and especially those with blogs, have been far too tolerant of malicious and unprofessional conduct by usually anonymous or pseudonymous lawyers and students. Mr. Grover deserves credit for signing his name to his stupidity, and, of course, his intervention is a relatively mild example of juvenile nonsense emanating from putative lawyers. I’ve generally let most of this garbage pass in silence, but in the coming weeks I’m going to be posting a bit more about some alleged legal professionals whose on-line conduct deserves to be aired in public. I especially welcome more information on a sick individual using the pseudonym “dybbuk,” who is, among other pathetic characteristics, obsessed with the appearance of female law faculty, and who fantasizes on-line about spanking them with wet slippers (though that is only the tip of the iceberg of his malevolent conduct towards and harassment of individuals behind the cloak of pseudonymity). He is a Washington & Lee law graduate from the 1990s, and an appellate public defender, and we will have more to say about him soon. But I welcome any further details from readers.

The offending e-mailer was corresponding with Leiter regarding his response to this post of mine, which asked the following question:

Why is the modal law professor in the contemporary American law school, that is, someone who is now years or decades removed from a very brief encounter, if any, with a very narrow slice of the very diverse world of legal practice(s), well-positioned to train people to think like lawyers, given his or her extremely limited first-hand exposure to that experience?

The truly grotesque level of pomposity displayed in Leiter’s frankly unhinged response to what, after all, seems like a perfectly reasonable question, is difficult to describe. I’m aware from other correspondence that Leiter is indeed frantically striving to identify some of his anonymous critics, so he can expose them to the unspeakable consequences that must surely befall people for having the “insolence” and “impertinence” to criticize Brian Leiter on the internet.

Update: It appears the admins at The Faculty Lounge may have some explaining to do.

. . . TFL has deleted the comment to which I was linking. I didn’t post the comment, which they can confirm via their apparently careful surveillance of the ISP addresses of commenters. I did, however, copy it before they deleted it:

There is a growing and disturbing pattern of evidence that someone with administrative privileges at this blog-site has been passing IP addresses and e-mail addresses of various commentators to Brian Leiter, who in turn has been making veiled threats on his blog and in e-mails to “out” people, write to all the partners in their firm complaining about them and generally damage their careers should they show any further “insolence.”

Evidence can be found at:

http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/03/brian-leiters-slow-motion-car-crash

Leiter’s own site:

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2013/03/we-get-mail-thomas-r-grover-esq-edition.html

and in various e-mails Leiter has sent pseudonymously (which is pretty ironic) and in his own name.

If they did disclose this sort of information the blog administrators have behaved at least unethically, but may also have violated the California Online Privacy Protection Act and perhaps the FTC Code of Fair Information Practices.
Meanwhile the point is well taken that it is highly inappropriate for a professor, protected by tenure, to be outing law students and junior lawyers or threatening to do so as a way to shut them up.

I think this forum needs to address the question of leaks to Leiter – did they happen, who did it, will they happen again, or simply find that it dies as a place to discuss topics like the one above.

Update II: Be sure not to miss this hilarious bit of internet sleuthing: http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/03/brian-leiters-slow-motion-car-crash/comment-page-1#comment-465618

Or this one: http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/03/brian-leiters-slow-motion-car-crash/comment-page-1#comment-465691

What a latnemunom ssakcaj.

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  1. [...] second Leiter critic, who goes by the handle BrianLeitersRottingTeeth has alleged that either Leiter, a friend of Leiter, or a supporter of Leiter contacted him asking [...]

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