Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Paul Butler's Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky: Take Back the Law School From Dead White Men

Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question:  What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine?

ButlerPaul Butler (Carville Dickinson Benson Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School; Editor, BlackProf blog):

Erwin, the people who did not want you to have this job are dead white men who happen still to be alive. The mission of the 21st century law school is to demonstrate that they were right to be afraid of you, of us, of the rainbow people who in this new age have come to claim what is ours. Its name is America. The new law school must help us take it back.

Architecture: Consult departments of physics and design - the atrium should remind all who enter the law school that Auschwitz was only yesterday and Darfur is across the street. Students should have to wade through Guantanomo Bay to get to Constitutional Law. In Fred Korematsu Law Library display portraits of migrant workers, the wrongfully executed, and Rosa Parks.

Appointments: A faculty like California! Having people of color as half of their professors will seem as natural to your students as having mainly white men seems to students at other schools.

Agenda/First faculty meeting: What is role of law school during despotic regimes? Spanish fluency - mandatory for admission, or only for graduation? Should "Justice and Re-distribution of Wealth" be a required course, or integrated into the entire curriculum?

Each morning students will pledge allegiance to the flag by discussing how to safely dismantle California state prison system.

On wall of faculty lounge: "The lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite." Charles Hamilton Houston.

Christopher Columbus Langdell is dead. Act like you know.

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Tracked on Sep 27, 2007 5:03:51 AM


It's amazing that someone like this is employed at an apparently reputable university -- oh wait, that's not at all surprising.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 11, 2007 6:30:38 AM

Right on!

Posted by: Rosan | Oct 10, 2007 6:10:48 AM

Paul Butler apparently considers himself a "social engineer". If so, I'd be afraid to take any bridge he builds to the future for fear of sliding off the left side.

Posted by: greg | Sep 27, 2007 9:26:35 AM

An equivalent conservative tirade would forever brand the writer a crank. Really, can you imagine any law school professor writing something like this?

"Let's shake up the liberal establishment! Make them walk past the killing fields of Marxism every morning: Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao. Never let them forget the consequences of social engineering. The law school establishment today is just a bunch of dead boomer hippies who don't realize they're dead yet..."

I just graduated from law school, and I can only imagine what it was like being in his classes if you weren't already a True Believer in the gospel of 1968. I imagine you'd be very quiet.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 25, 2007 7:50:40 PM

The references to the Holocaust and Darfur are to ensure that law students and others walking through the halls in the words of Elie Wiesel . . . Never forget the lessons of these unspeakable crimes of the past and learn from those that have survived to tell and retell the horrible stories and those that were lost from these horrific crimes against humanity

Posted by: Francine Lipman | Sep 25, 2007 12:45:22 PM

Doesn't the People's College of Law already exist? Dean Chemerinsky should just take that institution over if these are his goals.

Posted by: andy | Sep 25, 2007 11:17:26 AM

These prescriptions may attract an underserved part of the collegiate population and give UC Irvine Law School early penetration of that market, Billy Beane style. New College of San Francisco is the only Law School I'm aware of that thinks of law as less a profession and more of a means to agitate for progressive politics.

However, you'd lose every candidate that thinks of a JD as a professional degree and a way of making a living.

Posted by: guy in the veal calf office | Sep 25, 2007 10:15:14 AM

I would hope he would try to turn out the best possible lawyers. The market for lawyers is extremely tight (see WSJ article yesterday) and if he produces less than the best, he would be taking their tuition under false pretenses, i.e., that they are spending money to become employed lawyers with satisfying careers.

Posted by: mike | Sep 25, 2007 9:58:07 AM

I don't think most of this is worthy of serious comment, but as someone who is writing a book about the Holocaust, I find the comparison of law schools to Auschwitz to be both puerile and offensive. As I'm sure it was intended.

Posted by: Michael A. Livingston | Sep 25, 2007 7:32:07 AM