Home / General / Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash

Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash


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

[email protected]


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:

Leiter’s own site:

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://lawyersgunsmon.wpengine.com/2013/03/brian-leiters-slow-motion-car-crash/comment-page-1#comment-465618

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

What a latnemunom ssakcaj.

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  • Jon

    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

    No. That’s thinking like a law clerk.

    • Paul

      Paul, Leiter is clearly getting to you. Let it go.

      • Paul Campos

        This latest bit of cyber-bullying of potentially vulnerable people is beyond the pale, and he needs to be called out for it.

        I never respond to his attacks on me, which are beneath contempt.

        • Paul

          Cyber-bullying? Really? Some guy sent him a rude e-mail, he smacked him down. Big deal. I just think he’s gotten to you in a way that’s not healthy.

          • brianleitersrottingteeth

            If we define “got to” as causing somebody to write many-worded blog posts in response to something they read, then Leiter is the one gotten-to. He’s written about Campos plenty of times in the last year. Amazing considering that he claims not to read the blog. Anyway, the link you provide above proves my point. Who can read that and think Campos is the unhealthy one?

          • Brandon

            Some guy asked him a question in a sorta-snarky manner a tenured Law Professor proceeded to have a meltdown and publicly shame the guy.

            • Paul

              Well, maybe, but ‘meltdown’ seems a bit extreme. He was pretty calm about it. I get the sense he is pissed about other stuff in this vein. See Legal Insurrection link, below, which seems to empathize strangely enough.

              • Anonymous

                600+ words worth of calm. He also went to the trouble of researching (stalking?) this guy extensively enough to get his alma mater (he specifically says Grover isn’t listed on the website of the firm, hence has to gather this info somewhere else). This is the best part:

                I will be sure to send a copy of this entire correspondence to the name partners of your firm.

                Yeah, who is having the meltdown now? And I love the attacks on some anonymous person, whose crimes against Leiter are not listed, (and are obviously the real reason for his attention), but dammit he wants to spank ladies with slippers! Horrors! We must get him!!

                Its probably just me, but I see U of Chicago’s entire reputation just slowly sinking…primarily because of the economics department but I feel the law school’s rep is tied closely with that department.

                • Barry

                  “Its probably just me, but I see U of Chicago’s entire reputation just slowly sinking…primarily because of the economics department but I feel the law school’s rep is tied closely with that department.”

                  No, it serves the interests of the elites, so its reputation will never go down.

                • spencer

                  Sadly, I think Barry is correct. Even their Econ department’s reputation is unlikely to sink very far – no matter how obvious their obstinate wrongness becomes to people like us – precisely because it provides intellectual cover for the greed of the one percent.

                • burritoboy

                  Nah, Chicago is quickly hiring behavorialists. The old guard is still making a lot of noise, of course, but the department smells the change in the air. We shouldn’t forget that Chicago had some of the best institutionalists of the early twentieth century (Veblen, for just one).

                • Bill Murray

                  Casey Mulligan is likely to be polluting the U Chicago economics department for quite some time

              • Brandon

                No, it’s a full-fledged meltdown. Maybe TMI instead of Fukashima, but still a meltdown.

          • commie atheist

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

            Yeah, I can see how that would justify calling out the flying monkeys. So RUDE!

          • Scott Lemieux

            I just think he’s gotten to you in a way that’s not healthy.

            Wow. So, to be clear:

            1)Leiter calls somebody “insolent” for writing him a civil email, because who is some peon to question a great man such as himself?

            2)Paul is the one “losing it.”


            • Well, is it really “losing it” if one exhibits a consistent behavior pattern extending over decades?

              The particularly silly thing about it is that it was a perfect opportunity to open a discussion about narrow and broad conceptions of “thinking like a lawyer” (or thin vs thick conceptions). Or even normative vs. empirical. How much of the normative model of legal reasoning is actually helpful in being a lawyer.

              Of course, he does hit this distinction, but only as a blugeon. “Thinking like a lawyer” means what these texts say it means, the rest is all just stuff and you suck.

            • S-Curve

              Using the term “insolent” can only make one sound exactly like a Nazi in a forties Hollywood movie.

              • cas127

                Agreed – next thing you know, BL will be demanding to see all our “papers”.

                People who are very touchy about their “authority” tend to become Authoritarians.

                It is hard to read almost any Leiter post and not hear South Park’s Cartman bellow out “Respect my Authoritah!”

                Call it the Shuddup, Peon!/Cartman-Leiter Effect.

                BL’s most lasting contribution to the literature.

          • chris9059

            leiter didn’t just “smack him down”, he threatened to damage someone’s livelihood because the person in question had the “insolence” to point out that Leiter was talking out of his ass.

  • burritoboy

    Leiter was always like this, actually. People who knew him in high school say he was obsessed, even in his early teens, with rankings and “who’s the best?” He apparently believes “X is not a member of the philosophy department” is an actual philosophical argument.

    • Jon

      Yup. He had a friend of mine convinced that his ticket to international preeminence in philosophy was as good as assured because he went to one of the departments Leiter thought was elite and getting good people to move there. Nope. I won’t name the school to insult anyone, but, suffice to say it was one that is never going to be Harvard no matter how many times it ranks higher in some rag or some website. (I think ratings groupies fail to grasp that the apparent transfer of prestige given by the rankings is illusory.)

      As for Leiter, I think if he knew what real lawyers thought, he’d realize that especially those of us that have to mold the shit product that law school puts out and deal with it are very likely to send such e-mails and criticize that product. It’s a legitimate concern.

      • Medrawt

        In fairness to Leiter, something I’m rarely inclined to extend these days, the whole point of his “Philosophical Gourmet” project is to try and move the perceptions such that the in-field (and, more broadly, general academic) perceptions of the strengths of different philosophy departments more closely follow the combined prestige of the actual faculty members, and not the aura of the university’s name. Absent specifics, there’s not much to say about it, and I think Leiter is overly concerned with prestige as a thing in life, but the specifics of his ranking project are, I think, laudable (at least on the philosophy side).

        • Incontinential Buttocks

          Philosophy seems peculiarly convinced that the various departments in the field can be objectively placed in a simple, one-dimensional ranking of quality. Economics is the only other field I can think of that is so convinced that such a ranking exists. In my field, history, we certainly see some departments as better than others, but most of us would object to any attempt to produce a ranked list. Different departments have different strengths (and sub-strengths). Nobody takes the various third-party attempts to produce a simple rank-order of graduate history programs very seriously.

          • Medrawt

            And when it comes to advising prospective grad students, Leiter doesn’t really recommend that you just look at the aggregate rankings: if your intended specialty is philosophy of language or philosophy of science or whatever, the rankings by individual subject area are what you should be looking at.

            (Again, not that “ranking” is perfect, but seven years ago I *was* a prospective grad student in philosophy [didn’t work out], and the aggregate information Leiter had on his blog was helpful in pointing me in some more promising directions and dispelling some misconceptions. I find Leiter’s persona repugnant when he’s not just talking about philosophy, but I’ll stick up for the notion behind the imperfectly realized Gourmet.)

            • burritoboy

              I’m not so certain about the quality of the Gourment Report either. It performs a useful enough task if you’re an analytic, I suppose, but simultaneously Leiter spends a lot of time trying to police the boundaries and keep out everyone who’s not an analytic. That does a disservice to the philosophic community – it’s not as homogenous as Leiter insists it is. Further, he also distorts his depiction of philosophy teaching – for example, the fact is that the Catholic institutions collectively employ comparatively large numbers of philosophers / quasi-philosophers – often having larger philosophy faculties than tier 1 institutions.

              Even worse is Leiter’s attempt to globalize his analytic obsessions – it’s simply not true that Anglophone analytic philosophy dominates philosophy worldwide.

              • Jordan

                Well, Leiter isn’t really much of an analytic himself. So there is that.

          • Jordan

            Agree with Medrawt.

            Suppose you are stupid 23 year old (from a pretty decent undergraduate school) as I was a few years ago. I would have had no idea that Rutgers or NYU had much better overall faculty than, say, Harvard did.

            Leiter can be rightly criticized for a lot of things. The philosophical gourmet report is – on balance – a net positive.

      • enjointhis

        What a enjoyable kerfuffle. Did Prof. Leiter actually have the stones to send that e-mail to Mr. Grover’s colleagues? My response (and I’m a senior partner & rough contemporary of Leiter) would have been the old classic:

        Dear Prof. Leiter:

        Please contact your IT department. It appears some insufferable, pompous jackass has been sending e-mails under your name.

        Simply put, Leiter exemplifies the utter irrelevance of his field. As commenter Jon rightly put it, we have to train the more-than-useless law school graduates about how REAL lawyering works. We’d eat punks like him for breakfast.

        — ET!

        • kerFuFFler

          I’m glad to think this is the kind of response he would get! He really is the consummate pompous ass right down to his use of the royal “we”. (“…and we will have more to say about him soon.”)

    • TLL

      He has a huge impact on how people view the philosophy profession, and I’m not at all happy about this.

  • Jon

    Three questions, all with three possible answers, I’d love to have Prof. Leiter answer:

    1. Have you ever taken a deposition?
    2. Have you ever voir-dired a jury?
    3. Have you ever had a client referred to your practice and then represented them?

    Possible answers are (a) More than once, (b) once, and (c) never. If his answers are not universally (a), he is in no position to lecture anyone on thinking like a lawyer.

    • burritoboy

      Leiter has never even been a law clerk. He went immediately into teaching after he got his doctorate in philosophy – nothing inherently wrong with that, but Leiter managed to know quite a bit less than the average law professor (and that’s not a high bar) about actually practicing law.

      • Jon

        Yeah, apparently, the “good lawyers [he] know[s], among [his] family and friends” are shitty.

      • Brad DeLong

        Hold it: the most law practice Leiter ever had was as a summer associate?

        • Roger

          CV here. He was a litigation associate at Kaye Scholer in 1987-88, between law school and grad school.

          • Hogan

            really gotta change that nym

          • Paul Campos

            So what he knows about being a lawyer is what somebody who was a first-year associate at a big firm 25 years ago knows, i.e., nothing.

    • Randy Paul

      I work as a finance manager at a defense firm near Wall Street. Some of the senior partners there, if answering truthfully, would have to answer no for the first two questions and for the third, say, “Yes, but I had to pass it off to a partner who actually knows ho to try a case.”

      • Anonymous

        Yeah I think that’s a little too strict. Not every lawyer involves in litigation.

        However the point about professors like Leiter knowing far less about real-world practice than they would like to admit, and therefore being not obviously qualified to prepare students for real-world practice, is still valid.

        • Randy Paul

          Except the firm where I work is heavily involved in litigation defense and pretty much nothing else. We’ve six trials this year already.

          • Richard Hershberger

            So how do they end up with senior partners in a litigation firm who have never litigated?

            • sparks

              Failing up?

            • L2P

              They do deals and counseling, and can be quite successful without seeing an opposing party or a witness in their entire careers.

              My wife is a benefits attorney. She’s only seen a deposition subpoena when she passes one on to a litigator.

              • The first time Robert Petrocelli tried a case before a jury, it was the O.J. civil trial.

              • Randy Paul

                The one in particular I’m thinking of refers everything to partners who actually know how to try a case. This one is all about marketing and that’s about it and largely content.

                Trials are huge money makers for litigation firms: 10-12 hour days, five days a week for a week or two or more. A partner skilled at trying cases will go far, but even more so if they have a good book of business.

          • Jon

            Which is why I included the third question. If you can make rain, you can send associates to do the rest, even trials. But litigations is the foundation of all legal work. If you give advice or write contracts that don’t stand up in court, you’re doing a bad job. So, if you’re going to arrogate the role to yourself of saying how lawyers think, you should, I think, have some idea of those things, even if your students only go on to fill in the blanks or glad hand.

    • Jamie

      Sadly, as an IT person, I’ve kinda done all of these. Not officially, but I’ve driven the lawyers, or they were driving me, or something.

      What the hell is his problem? For me, this is just another dumb barrier. Apparently, this is his career. Am I mistaken? I’d really like to be mistaken.

    • timb

      I’ve been practicing admin law for 4 years and I haven’t ever done 1 or 2.

    • L2P

      I do mostly writs. We don’t do discovery and don’t do jury trials.

      I used to voir dire a lot when I was a prosecutor, but some very good litigators don’t do depositions or jury trials.

    • Eric Rasmusen

      You’re confusing being a lawyer with thinking like a lawyer.

      • Once I talked with a guy from Egypt about his computer-science degree. It turned out the degree was all theory: he had never, as part of his education, touched a computer.

        He seemed okay at Excel but I showed him some stuff to be nice.

        • This is an interesting question that I wrestle with all the time. E.g., I’ve recently started a series of posts about “What every computer scientist should know”. I’ve been discussing on and off designs for a software engineering practicum program. Lots of people wonder about “computational thinking”, etc.

          It is indeed possible, and I would argue perfectly respectable in the right cases, to graduate from a computer science program without having touched a computer (for the reasonable value of “not touched”). If you were doing a proper theory course, e.g., complexity theory, you wouldn’t necessarily have any programming skills.

          Heck, it’s certainly possible to go through without being a spreadsheet jockey (e.g., you can be an amazing programmer but not be able to drive Excel or Powerpoint at any extraordinary level.)

          Now, of course, “theory” might mean, “I read the agile manifesto and I know we should use a three tier architecture” without any competency at all. And that’s not good.

          • Oh, and of course, one need not to be a practitioner to study what practitioners do. This is where the “have you ever practiced” gotcha fails (though it’s a perfectly reasonable move since I don’t see any law profs making (much less correctly) making this counter).

            Just once, I’d like to see the following exchange:

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

            A: I definitely don’t “think like a lawyer” from a first person perspective, but we have a rich empirical literature on 1) the skills and knowledge that make someone a successful lawyer (at various levels) and 2) how to teach people those skills and knowledge (i.e., pedagogic content knowlege). So, while I agree that my competence in being a lawyer is not strong, my competence in training and assessing lawyers is high.

            Practicioner experience can enrich instruction in a variety of ways, but it’s also no substitute for having control of the systematic research and an understanding (and command) of pedagogy.

            This is roughly what I’d say about software engineering (which is not my area) and ontology engineering (which is). I have built ontologies (and “in anger”), but I don’t do so on a daily basis, or even monthly, perhaps yearly basis. I do study ontology engineers and their outcome closely, and I associate with them a lot. They come to me with specific problems and issues which I either have a solution for or generate a research program from. (Or just look at them funny :))

      • Maybe the problem is in the “like”. Leiter may well be able to “think like a lawyer”, but most of us will be more impressed by someone who can think as a lawyer. Of course, I would never suggest that Leiter writes like an arrogant jerk . . . .

  • 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.

    How about philosophers?

    What an ass.

    • Jon

      This comment is actually Exhibit 1 in the proof of Leiter not knowing anything about lawyers case. Has he actually, like, read the kinds of e-mails attorneys send to each other?

      • Anonymous

        Haha good one. If those family and friends really practice, then its guaranteed that they do not exhibit maturity and professional judgment at all times.

      • John F

        Has he actually, like, read the kinds of e-mails attorneys send to each other?

        Obviously not.

    • CaptBackslap

      Also, accusing people not under your supervision of being “insolent” is usually confined to intergalactic warlords.

      • Or Klingon ambassadors.

        • Or spoof Bond villains played with Lorne Michaels affectations.

          • commie atheist

            Are we sure Leiter isn’t Josh Trevino?

            • Snarki, child of Loki

              I’ve never seen them together, so the possibility should not be discounted

          • Or Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

      • Tybalt

        I heartily (and with much mirth) endorse this post.

      • Jon Hendry

        How do you spot Leiter on campus?

        He’s the one wearing giant, bejeweled plastic gauntlets.

        • CaptBackslap

          If you visit him in his office, DO NOT sit in his guest chair.

        • Manta

          I thought he was the one dressed in black, with a mask, and a bad asthma problem.

      • Jewish Steel

        The impudence!

      • And accusing people under your supervision of being insolent (if they are adults) is rather odd. Certainly wouldn’t be my first word choice unless I was trying to make myself look bad.

  • Jim Lynch

    All lawyers are argumentative jerks.

    • James E. Powell

      You don’t know what you’re talking about. And your tie has no power.


      A lawyer

      • Jim Lynch

        “And your tie has no power”.


        • James E. Powell

          Just being a jerk

      • Jewish Steel

        I love the idea of an underpowered tie. Your tie can’t get out of its own way!

        • James E. Powell

          I was just thinking that back in 80s, when I was a brand new lawyer, there was a lot of talk about power ties. My buddies and I used to joke “Your tie has no power over me!” and things like that. It’s stupid, I know, but a lot stuff lawyers say to each other is stupid. It relieves the tension.

          • spencer

            I remember the idea of the Power Tie. It was a Very Important Thing in the 1980s to a certain type of person, or so I gathered at the time (I was still a kid). Luckily for me, ties were mostly an anachronism (at least in my field) by the time I joined the workforce, so I never had to worry about getting the most powerful one in the store.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Oh, crap…now I’ll have to wire a 100W resistor into my tie and lug around a car battery.

        If I wore a tie. Which I do not.

      • Matthew Stevens

        your tie has no power

        Sounds like something out of The Tick.

        • Bill Murray

          gravity is a harsh mistress

    • Incontinential Buttocks

      That sounds like the major premise of a poorly constructed (and thus false) syllogism:

      All lawyers are argumentative jerks.
      Brian Leiter is an argumentative jerk.
      Therefore, Brian Leiter is a lawyer.

  • Insolence? Odd turn of phrase.

    I normally associate insolence with the calling of guards, scorpion pits, and/or that cursed do-gooder Flash Gordon.

    • Tybalt

      I half expected him to break into a round of everybody’s favorite game “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM!?”

      I have much respect for the sort of thing Brian Leiter teaches, and I even use it in my practice often, but this lawyer thinks it’s not what we mean by “thinking like a lawyer”.

      • Ugh. That never works. I don’t know why people say it, because I feel like if you’re actually important enough to legitimately say it, the greater risk to you is the person you’re mouthing off to leaking to the press that you tried to use your position in such an obnoxious way.

        • Cody

          If you have to ask if someone knows who you are, then they don’t?

          If you have that power, your friends are saying “DUDE, DO YOU KNOW WHO HE IS?”

      • Western Dave

        You’re Mr. Stevens?

  • brianleitersrottingteeth

    I used this handle a time or two last week on a few different blogs (including this one). It was inspired by the picture of Leiter on the Chicago faculty webpage that show his teeth as pretty clearly brown in color, and with a definite snaggle. I actually brought this issue up on ITLSS a while back and since then I’ve noticed the Leiter had the picture changed to a closed mouth smile. I take full credit.

    Anyway, the point of this comment is to remark that having used this handle last week for the first time, I received some “threatening” emails. The person had apparently looked up my IP address and repeated it to me, as well as asked me how things were “in Virginia”, where I live. The name of the correspondent wasn’t Brian Leiter and google didn’t return any University webpages when I searched for it. So I assume its either an underling of Leiter’s or some sort of pseudonym. Or maybe just somebody else who was greatly offended on Leiter’s behalf.

    I’m not quite sure how he obtained my IP address, I have to assume that one of the proprietors of the faculty lounge blog or the volokh blog (or this blog) gave it to him. He also had the email that is associated with the handle, which I thought could be seen only by the blog owners. But regardless, the whole situation is hilarious. Please, “out” me if you can. I assure you that nobody will care in the slightest.

    • Vance Maverick

      What is this, a contest for who’s the biggest asshole? Did you check out his countertops too?

      • Manta

        I don’t know who is “winning” this context.

    • Pouca

      I think it must be the faculty lounge

    • Eric Rasmusen

      Could you post the entire threatening email? I’m curious.

      For you this may not matter— I imagine you just find funny names better for blog posts than your own— but for some people who post pseudonyms actually are important, so it would be good to find out if a blog has been leaking them to threateners.

  • burritoboy

    By the way, let’s mention that Ed Levi played a huge role in boosting Bork’s and Scalia’s careers. Considering what Leiter thinks about Bork and Scalia, is not his praise of Levi somewhat strange?

  • celticdragonchick

    Funny as hell. I may start using a variant of “brianleitersrottingteeth” myself…

  • Rarely Posts

    “Thinking like a lawyer” can have several different meanings, but I find it ironic to see Leiter’s description. Having read Leiter off-and-on over the years, his actual contribution to the discourse is to emphasize law as hierarchy. Specifically: who has the power and prestige? What does that person think? Those are the fundamental inquiries worthy of a lawyer’s focus.

    As a practical matter, our legal system is highly hierarchical: There are Nine Supreme Court Justices, and if you can count to Five for your position, you have the law, regardless of actual merits of your position. Leiter’s endless focus on rankings, prestige, and position emphasizes hierarchical values over others. Thus, his version of “thinking like a lawyer,” in practice, seems like thinking in terms of power and hierarchy, and his focus on these values seems like an endorsement of such an approach.

    Personally, I consider myself a good lawyer and my version of “thinking like a lawyer” (as an empirical and particularly as a normative matter) bears more resemblance to his quoted description of law as a mode of reasoning and analysis. It’s just funny because his contributions don’t really seem to reflect an understanding of “thinking like a lawyer” as a style or reasoning and analysis nearly so much as they reflect an understanding of law as hierarchy and power.

    — signed pseudonymous

  • Brandon

    Wow, every one of the six posts of Leiter’s that I just read is dripping with “I’m-better-than-you” smugness. That guy must be a blast to be around.

    • Bill Murray

      I think we all should be happy to breathe the same air as Leiter

      • drkrick

        Not if what I hear about his teeth is true.

        • commie atheist

          Well, at least we don’t have to love him, too.

  • liberal

    For me, what stands out about Leiter (for better or worse) is his philosophical disagreements with Dworkin. In fact I first came upon his name on a google search looking for people who disagreed with Dworkin, and was surprised to see that he was a leftist.

  • James E. Powell

    My understanding of the ‘think like a lawyer’ thing was that it was less about thinking or reasoning, but about learning the history of the particular ways in which lawyers and judges talk about certain things. That is, not just the logic or reasoning, but the formulaic, algorithm-like way that lawyers talk about property, duties owed to the public, remedies, and the like.

    It wasn’t about how to think or reason in the way that, say, Introduction to Deductive Logic was.

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    • I’m confused. Colonel Mustard seems to be on Paul’s side.


        • commie atheist

          The enemy of my enemy is my…oh, fuck that.

          • rea

            The legal concept of “hostis humani generis” would seem to apply here . . .

      • timb

        If it makes you feel any better, Colonel Mustard is always confused.

      • timb

        Any proof he has learned what a metaphor is?

    • witless chum

      Col. Mustard terms LGM “not my favorite blog for reasons having nothing to do with Campos.” Rrrrarrrr. He also spends most of the post complaining about Leiter’s attacks on Glenn Reynolds and the Volokh dudes moreso than this instance. Is it even possible to unfairly attack Reynolds?

      • Sure. “Glenn Reynolds is just too darn nice, thoughtful, and knowledgable to be an effective blogger.”

        • witless chum

          Well done.

  • Shakezula

    Did anyone else flash on a Monty Python animation saying “Blah, blah, blah, blah” about five words in?

  • calling all toasters

    Forget it, Jake, it’s Chicago.

  • cpinva

    wow, he certainly doesn’t like you. on top of that, he comes across, a mere few words in, as a pompous twit. must be a fun date. i do know he’s very, very smart. i know this, because he repeatedly bludgeons me over the head with it. seems a tad insecure.

    • James E. Powell

      This describes about one-half of my law school professors

  • e.a.foster

    this guy must be missing part of his brain or not be too in touch with the real world. Anybody can get up and do the work of a lawyer if they have sufficient reading and verbal skills. In Canada the labour movement started training members to do the work of lawyers to deal with arbitrations and WCB cases back in the 1990s. These rank and file members were beating lawyers with great regularity. I think they got the idea when a shop steward at a mining company beat the corporations legal dept. and won $30K.

    We also have small debt courts where citizens represent themselves or not. Some hire lawyers, some represent themselves. There isn’t any great differance in out come if you go in with your facts and evidence put together in some semblance of order.

    If you’re not trained as a lawyer how can you think like one? Well given how dishonest some lawyers are, its better people don’t think like a lawyer.

    • Eric Rasmusen

      Most lawyering involves dealing with facts and procedures, not thinking about law. But what law schools can teach is how to think like a lawyer.

      • Shakezula

        I think it brings out a natural propensity that is present in some people to think a certain way. A friend called it boot camp for your brain. I think if you grabbed random people off the street, you’d get some who were better at it than the students and some who just couldn’t think that way.

        I am in no way saying that not being able to LawThink is a bad thing or a sign of mental weakness. It is probably a sign that you rarely piss people off.

  • Jesus Christ, what an asshole.

    • Hey, waitaminnit…

      Not sure you’re being entirely fair to JHC with that comment…

  • Leiter’s been like this forever. He once criticized my parenting because I took the time to point out that he knew shit about psychology while my son had a cold.

  • anon

    I think there needs to be some ‘balance’ brought to Leiter’s wikipedia page…


  • Brian Leiter v. Thomas Grover reminds me of my second year (1986)exam in family law. After complex fact pattern, the question read: “what advice would you give your client.”

    i answered in five or six lines. I got 9%. I asked the professor what was the problem with my correct answer. He said I failed adequately to discuss the law. I said the question did not ask that.He said ” this is law school….”

    By this time I had taken ALL the practical/clinical programs UBC Law offered, as well as run a law office in Vancouver’s West End(on my own) between first and second year, had several hundred clients, had acted as counsel, alone, in about 25 trials.I also worked in the law students legal advice program for two years.

    Our discussion got hot and then i exploded in laughter when I realized and then blurted…. “you have never been to court”

    i tried to be polite and tried to explain that no judge wants counsel to discuss the law….they want submissions…persuade them!

    I believe the main text in law school must be Aristotle’s Rhetoric, or some similar text,and it is not because the Brian Leiter’s of the Academy think a lawyer’s brain (or thinking) is functionally different from a plumber’s brain. Of course, you have guessed I was a succesful family law trial lawyer, despite not thinking like a lawyer.

    • cpinva

      it’s been my experience that no one, judges, counsel, etc. wants a “discussion of the law”, unless it specifically bears on the issue at hand. it has been my further experience that, in real life, no one gives two nanny-goat shits about the “philosophy” (whatever the hell that actually is) of anything unless, again, it bears on the issue at hand.

      “i tried to be polite and tried to explain that no judge wants counsel to discuss the law….they want submissions…persuade them!”

      i give you credit for at least trying to be polite about it, which i probably would have done as well, 30 years ago. today, not so much. there are too many people, with real problems needing to be addressed, to waste scarce, allocable resources, discussing crap that has little, if anything, directly to do with helping resolve those problems, in the best and most expeditious way possible. this leiter character is a pompous ass, and would be eaten as a light snack, in a real world setting.

      • John F

        it’s been my experience that no one, judges, counsel, etc. wants a “discussion of the law”, unless it specifically bears on the issue at hand.

        Summary Judgment motions and motions to dismiss, that’s pretty much it insofar as when judges invite you to discuss the law

    • bumperpflug

      i answered in five or six lines. I got 9%. I asked the professor what was the problem with my correct answer. He said I failed adequately to discuss the law. I said the question did not ask that.He said ” this is law school….”

      To be fair to your professor, there’s nothing unreasonable about expecting you to show your work on an exam.


  • Jordan

    Hmm. Ok, so that was, of course, a bizarre and terrible thing to do. But reading the links and whatnot: is there a good write-up somewhere about the whole Churchill thing? Because going on O’Reilly to bash him helped the cause … how? This was before my time, I guess. But still.

    • Jordan

      I mean, a mea culpa, or apology, or something? My googlefu skills are apparently failing.

  • Pouca

    I think once needs to consider who Leiter is trying to out – law students, un-tenured junior profs, junior lawyers, a juniorish Appelate Public Defender – all of whom are legitimately commenting on what they have experienced as practicing lawyers (something Leiter never was.) Quite maliciously, Leiter hopes that outing these commentators will shut them up and cast a pall over criticism of law schools.

    What is a serious issue is that Leiter makes these attack while sheltering behind the tenure protections. Were Leiter intellectually honest he would first accept a parity of intellectual arms with those he says should be “outed,” and expose himself to career consequences for his increasing ludicrous maunderings.

    Meanwhile there has to be some concern that Leiter’s outing campaign has been facilitated by the administrators of certain forums such as the prawfsblawg, the faculty lounge and the Volokh Conspiracy. If this were the case it would be disgraceful; the administrators of these blogs need to make a statement as to whether they have or are facilitating Leiter’s jeremiad.

    • George Purcell

      As odious as Leiter is, I find it hard to believe anyone at Volokh is helping him.

      • Pouca

        The evidence is that is the faculty lounge. Brianleitersrotting teeth is not the only person to have received an e-mail based on data that could have come from there.

        Of course this raises another issue – who at the faculty lounge and what laws did they break.

      • Brandon

        Volokh has been relying on discuss for several months now, which would provide a bit of a shield between personally identifying information and the blog-runners.

        I don’t recall them requiring an email before, either.

      • justme

        Doesn’t Dan Filler post at both TFL and Leiter’s blog?

    • Paul

      if the public appellate lawyer graduated law school in the 1990s (which is what Leiter claims), he’s not young.

      • John (not McCain)

        Ouch. Just ouch.

        • Shakezula

          It’s true. Now get offa my lawn! (1993)

      • rea

        No, he’s q

  • Tom

    Isn’t Leiter also the guy who got mad last year about people tweeting during conference presentations? I guess because it doesn’t show enough respect, or deference?

  • Brianleitersrottingteeth

    Since I accused blog proprietors of sharing my email with the guy who used them to write me threatening emails, let me follow up: I am pretty sure it was faculty lounge who did that. This is not perfect evidence, but faculty lounge did go through and delete all of the comments I had left under this handle. This occurred at least 48 hours after I had posted them and shortly before or after I got the threats. Volokh did not delete them and neither did this blog. I never used it at prawfs.

    So I believe either somebody at faculty lounge shared my email or they are the ones threatening me themselves. I don’t know which is more ridiculous. But I would advise anybody who does care to protect their identity (I don’t) to not use personally identifying emails at faculty lounge.

    • Pouca

      Share the names of the blog administrators

  • Shakezula

    I have probably spent too much time (i.e. more than five seconds) trying to imagine him drafting the letter to the firm. However, it is too much fun.

    “Dear Sir,
    Like yourself I am a most esteemed and respected lawyer who has had many years experience in [two paragraphs about himself]. But to the matter at hand. I must note with great displeasure that I have received a most abusive and contemptible letter …” No, it wasn’t a letter … “a most contemptible electronic communication from a miserable young jackanapes who claims to be in your employ. I say this person claims because I searched for him most assiduously on your website, &c, &c,”

    I don’t think it will make it past the administrative assistant to the assistant to the partners’ assistant.

    • RhZ

      Ha hilarious, I think you are right!

      Plus, jackanapes!

      Oh, by the way, all the anonymous comments are mine. I am not hiding from Leiter!

    • spencer

      “Jackanapes” is woefully underused n today’s modern society.

      • sparks

        As is amanuensis.

        • Shakezula

          Why in tarnation didn’t I think of that? I’m sure I could have worked it in. And “dandiprat.”

          I may have to start a blog devoted solely to posting letters Herr Leitershosen would have written had he but world enough, and time.

          • spencer

            I would totally read that blog.

      • Sprezzatura

        Don’t be a mooncalf; don’t be a jabbernowl; don’t be a loblolly. You’re not those, are you?

        • spencer

          Ummmm, I’m gonna go wiiiiiiith … no?

        • Epicurus

          Certainly not, Mr. Sousé! Will we be meeting at the Black Pussycat Cafe later? I’ll be wearing my grandmother’s paisley shawl…gosh! Oh, pardon my language…

        • Sharon

          Mmmm, good times.

        • linguini

          Sprezz, we need your help to fight this blogofascism! Groupthink from a mob of bullies cowering behind their user-name aliases. Groupthink! Groupthink! Naaa naaa naaa-naaa naaa!

  • JB2

    If this law prof does in fact contact the “name partners” about desecrating the firm’s sacred e-mail account, I’m sure the responses will range from “get a life” to “leave me the fuck alone, I’ve got work to do.”

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Could they send a bill for the time spent on the reply?

    • Malaclypse

      This would be the best possible response.

      • Shakezula

        Yes. Yes indeed.

    • Hogan

      We refer you to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram.

    • burritoboy

      Remember, this firm is in Las Vegas. I imagine the response to be something along the lines of:

      “Wait, he didn’t use our office email to send dirty emails to strippers? He’s already way better than the last associate!”

  • Pouca

    The posting from brianleitersrotting teeth is interesting. Has anyone else received mother people) essages that would suggest that Brian Leiter had been fed their IP address. A lot of circumstantial (is beginning to point to the faculty lounge blog as giving him information.

  • Pouca

    wow, my new laptop has the weirdest trackpad and autocorrect.

    What I thought I wrote is:

    The posting from brianleitersrotting teeth is interesting. Has anyone else received messages that would suggest that Brian Leiter had been fed their IP address or e-mail from a legal blog site? A lot of circumstantial evidence is beginning to point to the faculty lounge blog as giving him information. He seems to have contacted people with IP addresses and e-mails that by a process of elimination would seem to have only the faculty lounge in common.

    Should people compare notes?

  • Bloix

    According to his cv, after graduating from law school Leiter was an associate at Kaye Scholer for a few months in 1987-88, was admitted to the bar in 1988, and then, that fall, went to graduate school. He did not clerk.

    Assuming he graduated from law school in May and took the bar in July, he would have been admitted the following February (I was admitted to the NY bar in 1985 and at that time the lag between the exam and admission was July-February). Then he started grad school in September, so at most he worked as a lawyer (i.e. a member of the bar) for perhaps six months. As a first-year associate. Twenty-five years ago.

    Since then he has never worked as a lawyer, having been a professor of some sort either in law schools or departments of philosophy. He may be a lawyer by courtesy, but no practicing lawyer would consider him a lawyer.

  • Barry

    What’s fascinating is that Brian should be neither emotionally nor intellectually threatened by Campos’ work on law schools. U Chic is one of the top law schools. It’s not a diploma mill, or a mediocre school which has been rendered a bad choice by the changing economics of law. Even if half of the law schools in the country close, U Chic will sail along just fine.

    Brian could say this, and it’d be true.

  • Nichole

    Brian Leiter sez (among a lot of other things, all pointing as evidence toward the same end)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.

    Mr. Dr. Leiter is a perfect exemplar of those whose ultimate goal is to climb some ladder of prestige that exists primarily within their own minds.

    The same sort attend the court/s at Versailles, D.C. and write their tripe in the pundit columns of the remaining newspapers and/or political blogs.

    Again and again they prove themselves bereft of ability to function in the capacities others have appointed them to fulfill or that they have appointed themselves to fulfill. This crap is so reminiscwent of Woodward contra Sperling.

    They do make a good case for these being the last days of the imperial court. The point is the climb upwards. The point is never to be useful to anyone except their own timorous and tenuous egos.

    What an ass.

  • spencer

    . . . TFL has deleted the comment to which I was linking.

    And completely closed comments on the post.

    Is that something they normally do – close the comments on a day-old post?

    • A quick survey of their current front page suggests that they close comments, delete comments, and even delete their own posts with some regularity.

  • OhioDocReviewer

    Brian Leiter makes General Zod look like a humble and unassuming man of the people in comparison.

    “You will bow down before me, Paul Campos. I swear it! No matter that it takes an eternity, you will bow down before me! Both you, and then one day, your heirs!”

    • Shakezula

      More like the doubly fictional Emperor Zhark.

      (At this point you are either confused or a fforde reader.)

      • Sprezzatura

        Eh, he’s not so bad once you get to know him.

        • RhZ

          Excellent handle, my friend. Although now that TNR has changed hands and I suppose that writer has now disaapeared into the firmament…still, its a worthy one.

  • timb

    For all of Leiter’s faults, he’s pretty much described David Bernstein to a “T”

  • Brianleitersrottingteeth

    I received two emails. The first said “your comments are being deleted all over, how are things in Virginia?”

    The second email said “I notice you’ve been posting less. Is it because everybody knows your IP address is [number]”

    The author of the emails was a “Peter Aduren” at [email protected]. That name means nothing to me or to Google. Maybe it does to one of you.

    I haven’t received anything further from my friend, but I’ll update later if I do.

    • Pouca

      Aduren is Neruda spelled backwards. Pablo Neruda was a poet that Leiter has blogged somewhat illiterately about in January this year.


      • tramsisretiel

        This is amazing. I wonder if he is baffled that the internet was able to sleuth out his masterful plan?

        • fledermaus

          He must have spent hours coming up with that clever name.

          • Sprezzatura

            I think it’s the finest name I’ve ever heard.

            • Paul Campos


              We’ve got some real masters of espionage in this thing of ours.

              • Shakezula

                Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Blowhard.

                • Shakezula

                  That is, Herr Leitershosen. Not the folks who have hilariously pantsed him.

                • Matthew

                  ha, I haven’t read comments here in ages, but this gave me a nice LOL

          • Jon H

            It’s no Mary Rosh, that’s for sure.

    • Eric Rasmusen


  • TWBB

    Woo, validation for my theory that the “aduren” posting on jdunderground was Leiter:


  • Althouse once called me “insolent.” I thought it was just her being her, but apparently it’s a pompous lawprof thing. Freakshow.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Ooooh, that’s perfect.

  • anon

    Wow. I just left a long reply, but it doesn’t seem to have posted. I’ll try again.

    I 100% guarantee that Peter Aduren is Brian Leiter. Until a few minutes ago, the password to the account was ‘neruda’ – it has now been changed. Pretty much a throwaway account. Registered at JDUnderground, Princeton Review, Match.com as PeterChile (anyone want to search out that profile and get a date?!?!), as an Urban Dictionary editor where he managed to get the editors to remove the term ‘Leiter’ but not the term ‘leiter lip'(whatever that means), and on TLS as PhiloStudent (http://www.top-law-schools.com/archives/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=32744&start=25) – notice him talking smack about profs at other Philosophy programs, classy.

    He emailed Brianleitersrotting teeth, treebore123 about liking his posting on JDUnderground, and:

    Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
    Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
    Loyola University New Orleans
    6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318
    New Orleans, LA 70118
    tel: (504) 864-7934
    fax: (504) 864-7970

    [email protected]

    The only other interesting tidbit was a Uhaul receipt from April 5 2011 to a ‘Pierria Durin’ of 395 S End Ave, NY, NY 10280 and phone 917-459-4182. He borrowed a Uhaul from 10:32 am until 5:42 pm. What were you doing, Brian, dumping a body?

    And before you go and get your panties all in a bunch, Brian, my web browsing today has been *very* anonymized.

    • anon

      And oh, I forgot to mention in the re-typed comment, emails in the account forwarded from Brian Leiter at his uchicago email address itself…

      • anon123

        I thought Brian Leiter was married. If you’re correct, do you have any explanation as to why would the same account and same person be registered on match.com ?

        This is odd.

        • Rob in Buffalo


  • Jewish Steel

    A keen sense of when one is not being given one’s due + lack of shame = sociopathy.

  • anon

    Well. If Dan Filler both started/runs TFL, and blogs with Brian, he’d be an excellent person to start the questioning with – and an obvious suspect.

  • Alex Ignatiev

    It seems to me that Leiter missed a golden opportunity to demonstrate that he was not a colossal douchebag. And so, paradoxically, he demonstrated that in fact he can think like a lawyer.

  • OhioDocReviewer


    Leiter in an epic battle of wits with death on the line.

  • ChrisTS

    Brian Leiter once emailed me at my school email about a comment I posted on Volokh. There, I use the same handle I use here and did not know how he could have found out, so quickly, my email address. I responded calmly to his email and he thanked me and that was that. But, I have always wondered how he got my email address.

  • Pouca

    Please can someone help me finish this Limerick so I can get it out of my head and work… I can’t et it right

    There is this blighter called Leiter,
    who fancies himself a writer
    an admired academician
    a great lawyer too
    but the world when asked says
    he’s just a blighter, Leiter

    • There once was a blighter called Leiter,
      Self-described star academy writer
      And great lawyer too.
      Well maybe that’s true,
      But most think his teeth could be whiter.

      • Shakezula

        There is an ol’ tosser clept Brian,
        Rude dandyprats he is often decryin’.
        Your IPs he will sleuth,
        To pursue without ruth
        ‘Cos no one is safe from his spyin’.

  • Shakezula

    Here’s how to drive lysdexics insane:

    What a latnemunom ssakcaj.

    Try this:

    .ssakcaj latnemunom a tahW


    • Hogan

      This message is brought to you by DAM (Mothers Against Dyslexia).

    • ChrisTS

      Soooo… I admit to having no idea what the reference/joke is. I often have that experience here at LGM, but I’m trying to learn not to live with it.

  • The Pale Scot

    Sidebar: that dybbuk guy choose a weird handle for himself.

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