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Law professors behaving badly: A potentially unlimited series

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George Fletcher is a famous — or “famous” — professor of criminal law at Columbia. He’s been on the Columbia faculty for 34 years.  He started teaching at UCLA in 1969.  Fletcher is 78 years old.  12 years ago, he entered into an arrangement with the CLS administration whereby he would teach his full required course load (nine or ten credits, i.e., three classes) in the fall semester, thus allowing him to retain his full-time appointment while only spending four months per calendar year in Morningside Heights and environs.  (Apparently he spends each spring now at various academic institutions in Israel).

This sounds like a pretty sweet deal, especially since Fletcher is probably getting paid something like $400,000+ per year.   CLS salaries aren’t public, but UC-Berkeley’s — a comparable law school — are.  The available data are two years out of date now so you can probably slap 5% to 10% on these numbers:  The average salary for tenure-track law faculty at the school in 2015 was $317K.  Eight senior professors were making more than $400K, topping out at $472K.  (For any law professors who may be reading this, it may help your eyebrows descend slightly to learn that this salary number includes all direct compensation, including summer research grants. For any non-law professors who may be reading this, law professors get paid extra money to spend their summers, at least in theory, doing research and writing. I kid you not).

Anyhow, Fletcher is suing CLS for age discrimination.  The complaint is here.  What has upset Fletcher is that his new boss — the first woman to be dean of that august institution (edit: Gillian Lester is the second woman to be CLS’s dean, thanks to an anonymous commenter for the correction) — has told him that that administration wants him to stop teaching a required three-week introductory course for foreign students, for which he gets two teaching credits, and to replace it with an elective upper level course.  Fletcher doesn’t want to do this because in recent years some of his elective courses have had to be cancelled because of insufficient enrollment, and, when this this has happened, the school has let him make up the lost teaching credits by advising individual students during formal office hours. The new dean isn’t willing to promise that she’ll continue this policy.  From Fletcher’s complaint:

34. Columbia declined that proposal, stating that Fletcher would have to substitute IAL  [the three-week intro course for foreign LLM students] with an upper year elective which, again, would place him at risk of having his course under-enrolled and ultimately cancelled. Lester also wrote to Fletcher that if that “option is not acceptable to you, we will have to revisit the arrangement whereby you load all of your teaching into one semester, or we will need to discuss moving to a fractional appointment.”
The complaint features many other lulz as the kids say, including claims that the administration is favoring a couple of “younger” professors who are apparently in their late sixties, as they are described in the complaint as being “at least ten years” younger than Fletcher.
Note that Fletcher’s entire case amounts to claiming that it’s possible he may in the future be scheduled to teach an elective which could be cancelled because nobody wants to take his classes, which in turn could lead to the possibility that he would be asked to be within twice a week commuting distance of his employer for eight months out of the year, instead of four, in return for his gargantuan salary and associated emoluments.
On a totally unrelated note, the majority of teaching at American institutions of higher learning is now done by adjunct instructors, who teach six classes per year for $25,000 and a parking pass if they’re lucky.

 

 

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  • twointimeofwar

    I mean… I will gladly apply for the open position when he ultimately loses this garbage suit… and/or dies before it sees a motion for summary judgment.

    Why wouldn’t he want to retire? He ought to be very rich already.

    • Downpuppy

      He must really love teaching

      • twointimeofwar

        I’d love just about any profession at that salary.

    • twbb

      Yep, I’ll do twice his workload for half his money, too.

      • muddy

        Hell, I’d go 10X/10%.

        • rm

          That’d put you in normal tenured-prof territory. 10% is about $40,000, and 10X the work seems like a good guess for how hard an average mediocre non-law professor works in comparison to this dude.

          Never mind all the other comparisons, I haven’t gotten beyond Paul’s assumption that an academic salary might go up every year. What madness is this? I haven’t had even a cost of living increase in . . . decades.

          • muddy

            That’s not right. When the state minimum wage goes up here, I get .30/ over what the new amount is. I mean, minimum wage…but it does at least change!
            That makes all the difference.

            • rm

              I count my blessings, but it is irksome to work in a salaried job and have the take-home pay go down most years.

          • Bill Murray

            Never mind all the other comparisons, I haven’t gotten beyond Paul’s assumption that an academic salary might go up every year. What madness is this? I haven’t had even a cost of living increase in . . . decades.

            Huh, my Republican run state has had ~3% raises every year since I joined the faculty in 2007, except for 2008-2010 (and we got a bonus of half the money we missed in these raises in 2011) and next year. Of course we are also in the bottom 25% of salary paid

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Why wouldn’t he want to retire? He ought to be very rich already.

      Like many who screech about such things, he probably spent it all on vacation homes, foreign travel, overpriced real estate, overly expensive new cars candy and gum, instead of saving it for a rainy day, like they lecture the poor about doing.

      • NonyNony

        I doubt it. He probably has a very large amount of money stockpiled for his eventual retirement.

        People who refuse to retire (as opposed to “can’t retire” because they don’t have money) when they hit a decent retirement age fall into two camps – most of them are assholes who think the world revolves around them and retirement loses them power and prestige so they won’t do it. The others are people who have defined their life as their job and literally have nothing else.

        There’s no excuse for the former, but the latter I have some sympathy for. Generations previous to mine were highly rewarded by turning their lives over to their employers. I have no sympathy for the academics in this position though – you have emeritus status as academics which means that you can still publish and probably teach as well once you retire. It’s one of the few jobs where you can actually keep doing what you’re doing after retirement, so any academic at a prestigious institution who refuses to retire is generally just an asshole.

        • randy khan

          My father-in-law, at 86, still works 3 days a week, and I think he’s part of a third group you missed (which may be small). He genuinely likes what he does and appears to be good at it. (This is not one of those high power/prestige jobs.) He certainly could fully retire if he wanted, and has plenty of other things he could do and likes to do, but he just likes the job enough to stay on, and his employer seems to be pretty happy with him.

          This guy, though, pretty clearly falls into your category one.

        • LeeEsq

          I think another reason why we are seeing fewer retirements is that the lure of retirement lost its appeal to many people. During the mid-20th century, retirement was a big thing because it did not mean automatic poverty for most people anymore because of Social Security and Medicare. People were also healthier and more active in old age because of better medicine. Most people still don’t like their jobs enough to stay at them until they are too old to work but enough Baby Boomers and Silent seem to enjoy their jobs enough not to retire.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          I suspect another benefit for the former group of a-holes you describe is: a captive audience of students who must defer to you on some level. Compared to say, going home and being alone with the wife, who already has a black belt in Your Bullshit.

          • No Longer Middle Aged Man

            Good point: ego.

      • StellaB

        Avocado toast.

    • ASV

      Sounds like he basically is retired.

      • Rob in CT

        Right. I’d love to transition to a part-time job that still paid me well/provided me with good bennies when I get to 60 or so.

  • cpinva

    wow, sounds like a tough deal for Prof. Fletcher. and here i was expected to be within commuting distance of my employer 12 months out of the year.

  • rp0806

    I had Fletcher for Torts many years ago. He’s a colossal a**hole. There was an incident my third year because he put a really graphic scenario in the final exam for a class (I don’t remember the specifics, but I think it involved a woman getting raped) and many female students objected. His response was essentially “don’t be a snowflake.” The school agreed to have a townhall to discuss the incident, but I can’t remember if he ever apologized.

    • twointimeofwar

      Anyone using the term “snowflake” to unironically describe anything other than frozen water is likely to be a giant A**hole … or worse… in my experience.

      Persons of advanced age increasingly lose a social filter, so I doubt the graphic references have decreased over time since you have been there.

      • rp0806

        He didn’t actually use the term snowflake — this was 15 years ago — but the intent was the same. “Don’t be so sensitive,” “you need to toughen up,” etc.

    • Dilan Esper

      I can’t comment on specifics. It is certainly possible to include content in an exam that is so beyond the pale as to warrant academic sanction. (A math problem involving the number of bodies which could be handled in an hour in the Auschwitz crematorium would qualify, I would think.)

      But academic freedom is EXTREMELY broad here, and certainly law students should be able to process a graphic description of a rape in the same way medical students should be able to process severe trauma and bleeding.

      I am sure I read at least 25 criminal law cases, and maybe a tort case or two, that contained descriptions of sexual assault in law school. And when you get into the real world, you are going to get zero sympathy in a law office regarding any claim that the facts of a case “trigger” you. Part of being a working adult is learning that the world doesn’t adapt to your feelings.

      So while it is possible Fletcher took it too far, there is properly a great deal of freedom to discuss sexual assault in law school. A person who literally cannot be exposed to such clinical discussions shouldn’t aspire to be a lawyer, whereas a person who just dislikes them needs to get past that because it’s a crucial life and lawyering skill.

      • LeeEsq

        This might all be true but there is a reason why sexual assault crimes don’t turn up on the Bar exam but murder and drug crimes do when they decide to test criminal law. Law school exams and the Bar exams are grueling enough as it is and you don’t need to make them tougher than they are already by using a fact pattern that might make some students uncomfortable.

        • FOARP

          My exam questions on sexual offenses here in the UK were all described in cold terms like “A did [clinical-language describing sexual acts] without consent to B”, and were in an optional part of the exam. I’m sure the majority of students, like me, opted instead to answer questions from the other parts of the paper that were written in the more jokey style typical of law exams.

          Law students should be able to deal with the idea of sexual offenses, and should be able to answer questions related to them, but they shouldn’t be compelled to do so. Sexual offenses should be dealt with in a serious fashion – not as a jokey scenario for a torts exam.

        • twbb

          “Law school exams and the Bar exams are grueling enough”

          Meh.

      • muddy

        Again, trigger warnings are not a get-out-of-doing-the-work-free card. They are a HEADS UP as to what material is about to be given.

        If you are doing this as your job, then you would see which were rape cases before you were in the middle of them. If you are just working on an exam, it’s shitty to have it suddenly come up, messing up the exam performance, which is probably under a time contraint. In fact it would not surprise me if the kind of person described here thought it was good/funny to put things like that in there, to fuck with people.

        • Dilan Esper

          Muddy, as I said, I don’t know the specifics, and this could have been gratuitous on a torts exam

          But criminal law and criminal procedure exams can certainly ask about rape cases, right?

          And no, I don’t generally think trigger warnings work on exams. The content is supposed to be a surprise, and they aren’t optional. The governing concept is academic freedom, not warnings. There is some content so beyond the pale that academic freedom shouldn’t apply, but short of that, students who sign up for law school need to be able to process discussions in this area, just like medical students can’t be afraid of blood and gore.

          • muddy

            IANAL. Are you changing the goalpost from a question on a torts exam to a question about criminal law to make your point work better since it didn’t work well on the torts example that was being discussed?

            As I say I am not educated in this field but I feel like your second paragraph is not to the point?

            • Dilan Esper

              6No, I am making clear that Fletcher may have been in the wrong here. Butwe don’t know for sure based on the facts given.

              • muddy

                Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize we were in a courtroom where we can’t discuss anything without full discovery and links to quotes.

                Anyway, what is the difference between criminal law and torts, aren’t torts civil lawsuits, not criminal actions? as I say, IANAL. Just trying to see where your 2nd sentence fit in with the previous comment.

                • twbb

                  One would presume that a Criminal Law class has an implicit trigger warning.

          • thylacine

            You’re continuing to confuse taking a law school exam with practicing law. And to third brewnm and sam, I practice in an area where a set of violent facts would never come up.

      • thylacine

        Strawman. Complaining about it doesn’t mean that the students were “[un]able to process” it or “cannot be exposed to” it. The scenario would be unexpected and jarring to some students and put them at a competitive disadvantage on the test, even if those students will in the future be perfectly good lawyers once they get experience. The facts of many textbook cases can be pretty tough, but there’s a difference between reading such a case for your class and getting it sprung on you in an exam for which you may already be feeling a lot of stress to do well.

        • Dilan Esper

          thy, lawyers have to work long hours under stress on cases with “triggering” facts. So somebody who can’t handle this sort of pressure is unlikely to be just as good a lawyer as someone who can.

          • muddy

            What bullshit.

          • brewmn

            Yes, and lawyers who are easily “triggered” by the facts of sex crimes generally either don’t go into criminal law, or leave when the repeated exposure gets to them. Thing is, they aren’t forced to confront those facts without being emotionally and intellectually prepared for them to some degree.

            Having them gratuitously inserted into a Torts(!) exam is a completely different situation, unless you’re positing that rapes routinely pop up in the practice of personally injury law. It’s a fairly abusive thing to do, IMHO. And IAAL.

            In other words, what muddy said.

          • sam

            I am a lawyer who has worked many long hours under stress (somewhat less now 18 years into practice now that I’m in-house and no longer at a BIGLAW firm, but still).

            I am also a corporate finance lawyer and thus, very rarely (!) have to deal with cases of sexual assault just randomly getting thrown into the middle of my work.

          • thylacine

            You’re continuing to confuse taking a law school exam with practicing law. And to third brewnm and sam, I practice in an area where a violent set of facts would never come up.

          • Bruce B.

            Well, this is certainly true. One can, for instance, be triggered by the existence of female politicians who don’t go away when one wishes them to and thus forced to go on endlessly about them, contrary to facts, reasons, and principles established in other contexts. We should have great sympathy for these victims, while still declining to cater to them.

      • lizzie

        I can’t speak for the students that were there, but the reason I personally would be angry about it is that he’s obviously doing that specifically to parade in front of the female students his ability to treat them like shit and their inability to do anything about it. It’s not so much the material—most women are quite aware of the horrible details of sexual assault and misogyny generally—it’s that he’s using a law-school exam as an opportunity to engage in an assholish dominance display. A lecture from someone like you about how people who object are probably not suited to be lawyers just lets the cycle of assholishness be unbroken. And it’s not true, anyway: Being able and willing to call someone out on their BS is not a bad skill for a lawyer.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Hear, hear.

        • muddy

          Thank you.

        • +1

          rp0806: “I met the guy, he’s an asshole. Here’s an example of him being an asshole.”

          Dilan Esper: “That isn’t being an asshole, because ACADEMIC FREEDOM!”

        • Solar System Wolf

          Exactly. Any woman who’s experienced a man taunting her with a threat of rape to put her in her place knows this situation. It’s another way for men to say, “you’re weak and you don’t belong here.”

          And for the record, I found the facts of the rape cases we studied in criminal law painful to read and personally upsetting. I went on to practice law just fine, fuck you very much. Probably better than someone who prides himself on having no human feelings.

        • Bruce B.

          This is an awesome reply, and I’m admiring it. :)

      • twointimeofwar

        More details were provided by another commenter:

        ichininosan says:
        May 30, 2017 at 11:08 am
        Fletcher is truly a special case. He’s infamous for a horribly offensive criminal law exam that he administered years ago involving a hypothetical member of a cult (Big Monkey) that attacks pregnant women in order to crush the fetus. I could go on (and on, and on) but this one fact tells you most of all you need to know.

        • rp0806

          Yes — that was it.

      • Dudefella

        mmmmm…so, I went to the George Mason University School of Law (or, as it is apparently now known, the Antonin Scalia Bald Eagle CAW! School of Law). For those who don’t know, it’s a conservative school. I went because I knew I wanted to work for the government and it was the cheapest top-tier law school in a city in which I wanted to live.

        Before we got to the part of the torts curriculum dealing with assault (including sexual assault), my very right-wing torts professor gave what was, in effect, a trigger warning. He didn’t call it that, but he said something like “so in the next unit, we’re going to have to talk about sexual assault. This is an uncomfortable subject. I think it’s important to teach it, and I think it’s important for you to learn about it. But I know that there might be some of you for whom the discomfort is too great to talk about it in class. If that’s you, come talk to me privately and we’ll work something out.”

        Fast forward fifteen years. I’m a regulatory lawyer. I do a little environmental law, a little telecoms, a little due process. I haven’t had to deal with a tort since the Bar.

        Based on my experience, I’m forced to conclude two things: one, any law prof who claims that teaching sexual assault in the most graphic way possible is an asshole; and two, any lawyer who claims that learning about sexual assault is a vital part of learning how to be a lawyer is full of shit.

  • twbb

    The fact that he is complaining about and filing a lawsuit over this makes the fact that he may not be able to fill an elective believable.

    Also are you done with making fun of campus “leftists”? Because the Evergreen College situation is kind of bizarre. Or are you just tired of the LGM pillorying over those posts?

  • The 7th Marx Brother

    “[T]he majority of teaching at American institutions of higher learning is now done by adjunct instructors, who teach six classes per year for $25,000 and a parking pass if they’re lucky.”

    Just for the record: My fellow adjuncts and I at the state university where I teach have to pay for our own parking at about $400/academic year. And adjuncts can’t buy passes online (unlike all other faculty and staff), so I have to go stand in a queue every year to get my pass.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      That was the compromise solution. They were considering making you wrestle for them.

    • Dilan Esper

      I was going to say, I have heard of adjuncts having to pay to park.

      • Woodrowfan

        I made 18000 a year. We had free parking then they began to charge but they did prorate it by salary so it was pretty cheap. I made up for it by using the library resources a lot.

      • Denverite

        I know many adjuncts in the humanities, and while they don’t pay to park, that’s only because they park off campus and walk the half mile.

      • ASV

        Are there universities where anyone parks for free? I pay ~$300/yr, and there is plenty of room in our parking lots.

        • rm

          We used to, but that changed with budget cuts, and there is a steep, steep slope to the increases over the next few years that has me contemplating biking several miles, because there ain’t no municipal parking in our little town.

          Not only adjuncts, but maintenance workers and custodians and secretaries (typical salary around $18,000) have to pay just as much as an administrator making a couple hundred thousand. We (faculty and staff) asked for pro-rating, and got a flat no.

        • Alan Tomlinson

          UC Berkeley offers up a free reserved parking spot at the building where your office is for anyone who wins a Nobel prize. Glenn Seaborg had one for quite a while.

          Cheers,

          Alan Tomlinson

    • wjts

      But surely the cost of parking is offset by the generous 10% discount at the bookstore coffee shop?

      • rm

        Privatized — it’s Starbucks now. All restaurants are Starbucks now.

        • wjts

          Well, Barnes & Noble. I didn’t get a discount at the campus Starbucks.

  • Denverite

    On a totally unrelated note, the majority of teaching at American institutions of higher learning is now done by adjunct instructors, who teach six classes per year for $25,000 and a parking pass if they’re lucky.

    Ha ha, free parking, that’s funny.

  • Crusty

    Sure, it sounds like he's getting paid almost half a million dollars for doing very little work, but you have to remember, as someone who has been teaching for almost fifty years, he could walk out tomorrow and get a job at any major law firm paying him twice as much.

    • No Longer Middle Aged Man

      This! I regularly hear statements to this effect about engineering, law and business profs. Certainly true for some, though not necessarily in direct proportion to research productivity or prominence. For many? Questionable. For most or all? Have you meet some of them? The [not uncommon] ones who became profs because of poor social skills and low emotional IQ? Who think the world revolves around their very important cutting-edge new paradigm developing research?

      As an officer of my AAUP chapter I’m regularly reminded about behaviors and personality types that get by in academic environments that would not be tolerated in business or government settings that don’t allow for the same degree of personal/professional autonomy as in a university.

      • Rob in CT

        And vice-versa of course, with people who thinking teaching is easy…

    • John F

      I know you had the sarcasm font on, but I’ve seen judges and Pols do this, but never Professors. I’m sure it happens, every once n a blue moon- but most tenured professors simply do not have the job skills that private law firms look for. Of course if the professor has a prominent name that may be useful to a large firm from a rainmaking/marketing POV.

      But Torts? (is this guy in criminal law or torts) That’s a pond filled with sharks and barracuda, a tort law professor with no practical experience would get eaten alive.
      Criminal law? Do you really think he’d represent the average client better that someone who’s been in a DA’s office or a public defenders office for years?
      Maybe he’d be good at handling appeals.

      • Hogan

        (is this guy in criminal law or torts)

        Mostly criminal, but his official title is Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence. This lawsuit may be his first time inside a county courthouse.

      • vic rattlehead

        I think I read torts? And yeah, if he tried to do personal injury in the city (on either side) he’d probably get eaten for lunch. Ask him to do something basic like file a motion or go to a preliminary conference at Brooklyn Supreme and we’ll see what happens.

      • Denverite

        Kathleen Sullivan successfully transitioned back to private practice with Quinn Emanuel after a long career at Stanford. She’s currently a name partner there. But she definitely fits in the “prominent name/rainmaker” model.

        I worked on something with a former prof who went back to private practice after five years or so in academia at one of the lesser-regarded law schools that downsized/laid off faculty (I never asked if she was downsized/laid off, or whether she just saw the writing on the wall). She seemed to be doing reasonably well — of counsel at a well-regarded industry-focused firm with a national scope. I think she made partner recently.

      • djw

        The joke gets made because while it’s obviously the case that the vast majority of law professors do not have extremely lucrative legal jobs waiting for them, if they ever wanted to take them, it’s a narrative often used to justify paying them 2-3 times what other faculty make (despite less training, lighter teaching loads, and no expectation or requirement to publish peer reviewed research).

        • Denverite

          To be scrupulously fair to law professors on this issue, it probably is true that if entry level salaries were the same as they are in a lot of humanities-type subjects (say $50k-$70k), it would disincentivize a lot of people who now are trying to go into the law teaching business, who are probably making $200k+ in biglaw or $120k+ in bigfed (with great job perks).

          But (1) this doesn’t apply after entry-level, and (2) it’s questionable whether discouraging a bunch of HYS-COA clerkship-biglaw/bigfed types to go into law teaching would be a bad thing.

          • djw

            it’s questionable whether discouraging a bunch of HYS-COA clerkship-biglaw/bigfed types to go into law teaching would be a bad thing.

            That’s an understatement. The idea that ~1% of JDs are so much better than all the rest that academia should pay exorbitant salaries to attract them to jobs where they will train future JDs who have a 0% chance of being part of the anointed 1-2%. (And the non-special JDs should pay a lot more for that privilege of being taught by the 1%ers) is perverse.

    • sam

      Not really – he’s never actually practiced law in his life, has zero clients, and he’s well-past the age of mandatory retirement at many BIGlaw firms, which, if he thinks THIS is age discrimination, just wait until he finds out about that!

      Some firms will make exceptions for post 65 or even post 70 partners, but that requires a pretty significant client roster (AKA guaranteed income!) to make it work.

      ETA – realizing now that the sarcasm font was used. my bad!

  • NonyNony

    Oh noes! My sweet deal is in danger of being torpedoed because I can’t be arsed to teach a decent elective class every few years! I’d better sue to keep that sweet deal in place!

    I mean – Jeebus. If I were the department chair I’d likely tell him that his sweet side deal is null and void and he’d better plan to be teaching in the spring. (Unless they stupidly allowed it to be written directly into his contract – in which case every other faculty member in that department should have their own knives ready).

    Also – retire already. If you’re older than 68 and you’re still teaching at a prestigious university like Columbia then you’re an asshole. Retire and free up some spots for younger professors. You can still publish and teach as emeritus faculty – most universities are happy to have you. And you can free up a spot for some of the next generation to take over.

    (I feel pretty much the same way about any position that makes a ton of money and has nice retirement bennies. You’re a greedy asshole if you don’t step down when your time comes. If you don’t have that kind of generous compensation then working until you’re 80 or dead might unfortunately be necessary, but if it isn’t necessary then you’re just a selfish shitbag who needs to step aside and do something else once you hit retirement age. The company/university/organization will continue on without you, no matter how much it hurts to believe otherwise.)

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I’m quite tolerant of the oldsters keeping at it if they like and are good at it. It’s better to stay engaged.

      I suspect this guy isn’t good at it anymore.

      My own conclusion about working past retirement age, at my own workplace, is that your coworkers should get to vote on it.

      • NonyNony

        It’s better to stay engaged as you get older, but it doesn’t have to be through work. People need to cultivate hobbies so that when they retire they can stay engaged there. (And again – specifically when it comes to academics – “emeritus” status as prestigious universities means they literally can keep doing the publishing and teaching parts of the job – the parts that most academics really like anyway).

        The longer someone sticks at a job past retirement age that they don’t need to keep, the more of an asshole they are. And the higher up the ladder you go, the worse it gets.

        • randy khan

          In some areas I’d agree (academics, most notably), but I’m not convinced that’s true in most jobs. I’m all for making sure people *can* retire, and most people will retire when they can or soon after, but creating a norm that people ought to retire whether or not they want to retire seems inappropriate to me.

      • FOARP

        My own conclusion about working past retirement age, at my own workplace, is that your coworkers should get to vote on it.

        I worked for a patent firm in Japan, one of the attorneys there was someone with a two-digit patent agents license (i.e., one of the first hundred people to qualify as Japanese patent agents post-war) and was in his late 70’s.

        The guy was absolutely useless for doing anything but signing documentation, would sleep in the office at his desk, lose documentation (and blame us), mess up cases with his stupid amendments (and blame us), forget to forward billing to the clients (and blame us). Sometimes I would find thick files with an ink-spot running all the way through them caused by him falling asleep half-way through writing and leaving his pen pressed on the page.

        Sometimes I would feel sorry for him, especially when he had just undergone a tongue-lashing from our super-asshole boss (“Stupid man [bakajin], why don’t you hurry up and die?”), but then he would try to blame another one of foul-ups on us. This being probably the archetype of a shitty place to work (regular workplace abuse including senior staff slapping subordinates, firings pretty much every week over minor/non-existent mistakes), sometimes he would succeed in getting someone fired.

        Of course I’ve also met the opposite to this: people who are good at their jobs and want to keep doing it into their 70’s and 80’s. I have no problem with these people, I admire them. I just never want to work with anyone like that Japanese patent agent again.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Geez, still with the slapping over there. Hmm… would you trade a society with a lot of gun deaths for one with a lot of slapping?

          A well-armed society is a boss-not-slapping-you society…

          (There has got to be some third wsy, but I just ate lunch my bread has ground to a halt.)

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Er, and my BRANE ground to a halt. We regret the error.

  • Mike in DC

    I thought this thread was going to be about Dershowitz.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    This fellow reminds me of a certain struggling “middle class” law professor in Chicago.

  • DAS

    How far in advance does he make arrangements to go elsewhere spring semester? I.e. will he have enough time to cancel his visiting professorship or whatever he has lined up for spring semester (including canceling housing, rescinding rental agreements with whoever he’s renting his NY area digs to, etc) without a major financial or other consequence by the time he would know his elective was cancelled or not?

    Of course, an easy compromise would be to give him some sort of partial appointment wherein if his class is cancelled, he has a choice of making up units in spring or taking less pay.

    BTW, what kind of research output does he have that he only has to teach three courses a year? True, I know professors who teach even less than that, but they have big grants and the research output to match or are department chairs and have decent size grants and decent research output.

    • Paul Campos

      Three courses per year is the standard teaching load for law professors at dozens of law schools. Four is considered a heavy load, or declasse if it’s the standard at the institution.

      • FOARP

        Worth asking: has he had anything published lately?

        The latest thing mentioned here is 2012: http://www.law.columbia.edu/faculty/george-fletcher

        • Hogan

          Nothing more recent than that in Hein Online. Per his CV, he has two “forthcoming” volumes of The Grammar of Criminal Law in the works (vol. 1 was published in 2007).

  • ichininosan

    Fletcher is truly a special case. He’s infamous for a horribly offensive criminal law exam that he administered years ago involving a hypothetical member of a cult (Big Monkey) that attacks pregnant women in order to crush the fetus. I could go on (and on, and on) but this one fact tells you most of all you need to know.

    • MacK

      That’s ludicrous. I can see how there is academic merit in law school in trying to get students (assuming they will be lawyers) to discuss cooly and dispassionately horrendous and appalling fact patterns, provided they are real – to learn not to blink or become emotional in such discussions. But a hypo like this is just lurid fantasizing.

      Really, if you want to teach law students dispassion, there are plenty of actual cases with horrifying facts – child abuse, etc., without having to make up lurid hypotheticals.

      But for a teachable moment – relative of mine was for some reason wearing stiletto heels one day to court – and she cut down a back alley from her office to the court (it was in a big of a red light district.) In court she realized that there was some smirking and giggling going on – including a judge who seemed a little odd. At some point she looked down and realized that on each heel was speared several used condoms… She never wore stilettos again. Hypo – how do you retrieve a situation like that……

      • twointimeofwar

        Really, if you want to teach law students dispassion

        I mean, do we?

        Showing passion, even sadness/fear, doesn’t usually hurt. Juries want to see who you are and want to learn about your client (or the victim) through you.

        I suppose insurance defense counsel – prior to being in front of a jury – would benefit from some dispassion and trying to analyze the “loss” only in terms of the economics.

        • MacK

          Let’s say the ability to approach issues logically and without screaming and yelling, even though they are highly emotive is a useful one for lawyers.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Yes. Leave the tirades for the ship’s medical officer.

        • Mellano

          If five students in that class became trial attorneys, it’d be a lot.

  • MacK

    One of the big problems that institutions are facing with the older of the boomers is that they are both youth obsessed and refuse to retire, exacerbating the ‘”cohorting” problem. Cohorting is an issue you see in academia, clubs, agencies, etc., that had a period of substantial expansion and recruitment – which is that a lot of the faculty/membership/staff fall into a narrow age range, while there is a compression of age ranges between ranks/offices/roles, etc.

    To give a simple example, you get a government department where the top 4-5 ranks are all occupied by people in the age range 56-64 – and promotion is blocked for most of those aged 30-50, leading many of the most talented to quit. In academia (and I’ve seen it) a similar age profile is say Ireland led to an almost complete absence of tenured academic slots opening up for about 15 years in certain scientific disciplines, and once they started to open, a strong prejudice (among youth obsessed boomers on appointment committees) towards new younger PhDs (hiring a wave in their 30s perpetuates the cohorting problem.) You see it with clubs, which become “stuffy” and conservative, making them unattractive to younger members (and a few in DC that have become unusually obnoxiously Republican.)

    Inter alia, the cohorting problem is made worse in many EU countries by the quasi-civil service approach to academic jobs. One aspect is that if someone does not follow a very prescribed path, PhD, lecturer, etc., and if they move around too much especially to ‘foreign’ roles or worse industry, they get off the academic career track and cannot easily get back on. To a degree you see this in US law schools, where there is now a distinct academic career track and little recruitment off it.

    I’d argue that cohorting is/was a problem with a chunk of the Democratic political leadership, who at times appear like a boomer gerontocracy.

    In short, you need a demographic spread, age ranges, not cohorts. That’s why it may be wise to encourage older professors to take emeritus status, let them keep offices, etc. – but allowing them to blockade tenured roles, when they already have a presumably very generous pension … that’s a bad idea.

    • John F

      I’d argue that cohorting is/was a problem with a chunk of the Democratic political leadership, who at times appear like a boomer gerontocracy.

      Yes, I call it the Reagan Generation problem- political leaders who “came of age” when Carter/Reagan were presidents (born between about 1958-70) tend to be Republicans. That same cohort has voted Dem every POTUS election since 2000 except one (it was even in 2008) – It has voted more R in every election than the overall public- the result is the GOP has scads of elected officials at every level now aged 46-58, and the Dems do not.

    • NewishLawyer

      I think Lee has it right above. The Silent Generation and Boomers (at least a large cohort of them) don’t find the prospect of retiring as appealing as previous generations. This is especially true in the professions seemingly. Part of this is probably not wanting to cut back on lifestyle and needing the income. There is also a part on living longer even if otherwise unhealthy.

      People can live into the 70s and 80s now with conditions that would have killed them 30-50 years ago. And people aren’t doing back breaking work exactly either.

      • muddy

        No, in the back breaking work jobs, you don’t make it to 78, or 68 for that matter. Come on to work with me, it’s great. You get to sit down 3x a day when a bell rings.

    • Orang Bodoh

      Long time lurker finally posting. I’ve observed this ‘cohorting’ problem but didn’t know there was a name for it. I’m an engineer at a big company and saw the same thing in my department – two people in their early 70’s who were still at the top of their game, but there hadn’t been a promotion in 15 years at the department because of it. It created a lot of resentment among the masses until there was a downturn and they were given a year’s salary as incentive to retire.

  • LadyProf

    Delurking with personal knowledge, sort of.

    Gillian Lester is not the first woman dean of Columbia Law School. Barbara Aronstein Black served a five-year term, the standard length at Columbia (unlike most law schools, this one almost never lets the dean stick around longer than that), starting in 1986.

    Elaborating on ichininosan above, apropos of Dilan’s worry about threats to Fletcher’s academic freedom to say anything he wants that offends women, I wasn’t there, but according to rumor the final exam (criminal law, not torts) went like this: A man violently slashes the belly of a pregnant woman, destroying the fetus. The woman says to the man (I’m paraphrasing from my memory ca. 1999) “Thanks! You did me a favor, saved me some money, I’d been planning an abortion!”

    Fletcher’s question to which the Columbia students had to write an answer was can the man be convicted of any crime and if so which one. He suffered no consequence except some grumbling. I have no opinion on whether the question is valid as pedagogy, but you can’t spin it as being about preparing lawyers for the tough real world.

    And yes indeed, asshole.

    • Crusty

      Its a pretty good criminal law exam question. It just is.

    • muddy

      So if you were planning to do some renovations, but you hadn’t told anyone yet, and someone drives into your house and does a lot of demo, will the insurance still pay out on the destruction of your home?

      • lizzie

        Yeah. It ain’t that hard to come up with something that is not, as MacK accurately calls it, lurid fantasizing.

        • Denverite

          In fairness, there are some intent-based rules and doctrines that are pretty specific to the sexual assault context. I could see a Crim Law professor operating in good faith conclude that there is simply no way to test those rules and doctrines without asking a question involving sexual assault. (IIRC, my Crim Law prof decided that it just wasn’t worth it, and although we certainly discussed those rules and doctrines, he didn’t have a test question on it. But that was a looooonnnngg time ago.)

          • Srsly Dad Y

            That reminds me — my crim prof tried to engage our section in a discussion of a tricky rape hypothetical, but none of the men, including myself, would utter a single word. Nope. Not worth it. We were ambitious/optimistic and did not want the possibility to exist that someone might ever recall that we had said something on that topic that was less than fully enlightened. Nothing on the exam about it AFAIR.

          • Katya

            My Crim Law exam included a question requiring students to draft a Model Penal Code statute criminalizing statutory rape, and defend/explain the various provisions. Quite a good question, I thought, and there were no complaints. Fletcher’s question is terrible and stupid.

        • John F

          My recollection from 25 years ago is that there were some pretty damn bizarre fact patterns in real world sexual assault cases in the casebooks.

          • lizzie

            I’m aware of that. That does not mean that what this guy is doing is NOT lurid fantasizing.

      • Denverite

        Trick question. If you are stupid enough to tell the insurance company that you were planning on renovating, you clearly aren’t smart enough to buy insurance for the home.

      • John F

        That (or something like it) happens in the real world more often than you think. Though as a general rule if you “were planning to do some renovations, but you hadn’t told anyone yet” you are not going to get “caught”
        The people who get “caught” are the ones who’ve actually started demolition as a prelude to making renovations and then a hurricane hits…

        As to what if you were planning on tearing down half your house, but hadn’t actually started when the hurricane hits and a tree falls on your house? Well you are almost certainly still entitled to recover from your insurance company. You had a functioning roof before the tree hit, and even if you were planning on replacing that roof, you are contractually entitled to recovery. (Of course you may not be entitled to the cost to replace your roof, but its “actual cash value” which for an old roof might be the “cost to replace less depreciation”

    • MacK

      Oh crap, that’s just stupid and obnoxious. A pregnant woman whose just has her belly slashed (a) would be unlikely to speak that coherently, and (b) assuming such a slashing would kill the fetus would almost certainly be past 24 weeks, which makes it vanishingly unlikely barring serious fetal abnormality that she had decided on an abortion.

      This reminds me of my preferred answer to the ethics professor with the gun in the clearing and a single bullet type hypothetical – “you have to shoot one of these people, which one” answer “can’t I just shoot the ethics professor who came up with this hypo?”

      • muddy

        Your answer does solve the basic problem quite simply.

      • twbb

        What it made me think of is the recurring Scalia/Dershowitz/[insert random Islamophobic nutjob here]’s inane ticking time bomb hypothetical. Of course, that one is worse because it is allowed to drive real-world stupidity.

        • MacK

          I always find it interesting how often in a movie the extremely cunning mad scientist/dictator/terrorist for some mysterious reason build a bomb with a big-as clock on the top visibly ticking down the minutes and second until it explodes – and how it is that the hero always finds it and disarms it with just seconds left on the clock?

          I mean why would you put a big power hungry digital clock right on top? Why is it always with minutes to go. And why does the hero not, when looking at an implosion type weapon and a bunch of visible trigger cables going to detonators not first cut a few, or pull them out (hint, implosion type weapons need near perfect symmetry of detonation of the dozen plus shaped charges to have a proper nuclear detonation.) Why not just pull out the detonator (blasting cap) from the block of C4 or the dynamite? Why f*** around with the timer when there are easier ways of stopping it exploding? Why does the clock stop with 4 seconds left, instead of going – beep, oh no detonator? Most detonators have only two leads – you can cut both – why not?

          So what is it with movie terrorist? Why to they make such complex and easy to stop weapons. What is it with the movie heroes who never do the obvious thing? What is it with the law professors who believe this stuff?

          • MacK

            Come to think of it, why does the villain never just shoot James Bond – but always use a baroque method of killing him with ample opportunity to go wrong?

          • RefManTim

            The Top 100 Things I’d Do
            If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord
            15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.

        • Bruce B.

          Jim Henley on the fantasy behind the ticking time bomb. (Yeah, it’s Reason, but Jim’s own site shut down last year.)

          Let’s say you’ve caught a suspect and you’re sure he’s a terrorist, and you’re sure there’s a nuclear bomb somewhere in Manhattan, and you’re sure he knows where it is, and you’re sure this particular terrorist has been trained to resist torture just long enough that you could never get the true location of the bomb out of him in time. But you’re also sure this particular terrorist is a pervert! And he tells you that if you’ll rape your own child in front of him, he’ll tell you exactly where the bomb is and how to disarm it. And you’re sure that he will, because your intelligence is that good in exactly that way.

          Wow! Fascinating hypothetical, huh? And it’s only slightly more far-fetched than the more familiar ticking time bomb scenario, in which you must torture the suspect to save all those innocent people. Both versions have to be laid out awfully precisely. In my scenario, I even assume the nuclear terrorist has been trained to resist torture for a time. Improbably, Alan Dershowitz—the torture enthusiast and original time bomb booster—does not.

          So how come we hear so much about the torture quandary and nothing about mine? Why, according to Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay in a November 2005 Knight-Ridder report, has Dick Cheney adverted to the Alan Dershowitz version “several times” and mine never? Why does Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) tell the New York Daily News editorial board that various torture techniques “are very rare, but if they occur there has to be some lawful authority for pursuing that,” at least in “those instances where we have sufficient basis to believe that there is something imminent,” but never says anything about creating “some lawful authority” for emergency incest?

          The answer is simple: State agents don’t have any ambition to rape their own children.

  • Scott Lemieux

    In my first semester as an adjunct, I did not get a SUNY parking pass, but did get a $50 fine for parking in a lot that seemed to indicate that it was legal to park without a pass after 4 o’clock at 4:15.

  • BillWAF

    Does Fletcher still get a Columbia apartment? When I was at Columbia Law School, I believe that he lived on either Riverside Drive or Claremont Avenue, in a building which Columbia owned. Faculty and administrators who get Columbia apartments usually get a below market rent. Some of the apartments are beautiful.

    • Crusty

      At $400K per year, you can't expect professors to just pay their own housing costs like regular people.

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