Paul L. Caron

Monday, October 15, 2018

Presser: Make Law Profs And Law Students Great Again

MAGATennessee Star op-ed:  Making Law Professors and Law Students Great Again, by Stephen B. Presser (Northwestern; author, Law Professors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law (West 2017)):

It was little noticed, and of little effect, but more than 2,000 professors signed a letter urging the U.S. Senate not to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Given that he is the best qualified nominee in some time, having graduated from Yale and Yale Law School and having served a clerkship with Justice Anthony Kennedy and for more than a decade on the nation’s second highest court as the author of opinions embraced by the Supreme Court itself, this is curious.

This cri de coeur from the professors tells us more about them than about Kavanaugh, and it tells us about the diseased state of jurisprudence in the law schools. ...

The law professors, virtually all of whom are Democrats (the number of Republicans in the legal academy is minuscule) condemned Kavanaugh for describing the hearing as “partisan,” and “a calculated and orchestrated political hit.”

Kavanaugh was, of course, correct—but that needn’t be addressed here. What is striking is the inability of these many law professors to see Kavanaugh’s behavior as anything but the behavior of a naked partisan, when the same can be said for the law students at more than 30 law schools who staged a three-day walkout from classes, demanding that “anyone seeking to be elected to Congress in November commits to impeaching Kavanaugh to protect any semblance of rule of law and the people of our communities.”

A reader of Kavanaugh’s Circuit Court opinions would understand that Kavanaugh is very much in the mainstream of our jurisprudence, and is a thoughtful jurist committed to the rule of law, and devoted both to precedent and to the implementation of the original understanding of our Constitution. There is nothing scary about him, if one accepts these traditional postulates.

What the law professors and the protesting students have shown us, however, is that they do not. Their view of the law, as I tried to show in my recent book, Law Professors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law, the view now dominant in the academy and increasingly in the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, is that the law ought to be a means of redressing past social grievances, and a tool for redistribution of resources and power from a white male patriarchy to women, persons of color, and others the Left singles out for special status.

So dominant was this view, and so strong was the heated rejection of those who manifested a contrary jurisprudence, that the signers of the anti-Kavanaugh letter found it inconceivable Kavanaugh could be acting in anything other than bad faith. They have, sadly, no sense of what it is like for a man of honor wrongly to be besmirched, and they simply do not understand the quality or character of a man truly committed to ideals so far from the now politically and academically correct.

It is no surprise that no more than a handful of us in the legal academy were active Trump supporters. Just as what was attractive to us in Donald Trump was his debunking of the politically correct and his advocacy of traditional American values, so his nomination of a man like Brett Kavanaugh is simply unacceptable to those who cling to what is now more easily able to be seen as a pernicious and, ultimately, undemocratic perspective.

Those who would use the courts as forces for social change—Kavanaugh’s enemies—simply do not accept the constitutional structure that gives policymaking power to the state and federal legislatures rather than to the courts. ...

We are witnessing the beginning of the deconstruction of the administrative state, and the concomitant attack on the progressive ideology that dominated the government, the courts, and the academy for the last generation. Those who held power for so long are not going quietly into a gentle night, and their loud and agonized laments can be heard in the law professors’ letter. The Trumpian counter-reformation, or, if you prefer, the reversal of the Left’s apparent victory in the culture wars of the end of the 20th century, comes as a shock to these complacent academics, and, sadly, to many of their students.

Legal Education | Permalink


What's interesting to know is how many of the other 7.000 or so law professors would have signed it. I suspect a lot, but far from all. It's not quite as one-sided as some think.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Oct 15, 2018 2:52:39 AM

I understand. The Senate Judiciary Committee called, and the FBI interviewed, all relevant witnesses. Democrats, who controlled that hearing, are all partisan and dishonest. Republicans, always the victims, operate in good faith and represent the mainstream of American thought. And we wonder why folks from different parties have a hard time talking to each other?

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Oct 15, 2018 6:45:36 AM

Yes, law students, take heed from Brett: when you are in your job interviews, make sure to whine, cry, and bark accusatory tu quoques and conspiracy theories. You know, because presumption of innocence. Watch those acceptances come flooding in!

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Oct 15, 2018 8:52:11 AM

No bias at all evident in the op-ed AT ALL. I mean it was only posted on a far-right “news” site (trying to look legit with the name The Tennessee Star) that Politico labeled a “Baby Breitbart.” And, if you scroll to the very bottom, it notes that it was written on behalf of the “Center for American Greatness” - a far-right “center” which has on its front page an article advocating ANN COULTER for US Ambassador to the UN. Seriously.

Just because an old white guy was once an legal academic does not warrant posting this sort of nonsense on Tax Prof.

Posted by: BC | Oct 16, 2018 6:33:35 AM