Paul L. Caron
Dean



Friday, November 13, 2020

Miami Law Faculty Condemns Colleague's 'Egregious Lack Of Professional Judgment' In Pro-Trump Tweets

Following up on Saturday's post, Students Express Concerns Over Miami Law Professor's Twitter Support For Trump In Presidential Election:  The Miami Hurricane, A Letter From Faculty Regarding Professor Ravicher:

Miami (2019)To the University of Miami Community:
We write as faculty members of the University of Miami School of Law to address the recent public statements of Dan Ravicher, who currently teaches a University of Miami Law School practicum.

On his Twitter account, Ravicher has promoted baseless claims about fraud in the presidential election, suggested a need to use lethal force against protesters after the election, compared calls for political accountability to the Holocaust, groundlessly accused law faculty of retaliating against students for their political views and made several uninformed claims about race, ethnicity and identity in the United States.

These public social media posts demonstrate, at the very least, an egregious lack of professional judgment.

While Ravicher’s unprofessional behavior may be defended as a matter of academic freedom or free speech, academic and free speech norms do not insulate lawyers from critique. To the contrary, the principles of academic freedom and free speech compel us to speak out against Ravicher’s promotion of disinformation, invocation of violence and racially derogatory commentary. We join the students, alumni and practicing attorneys voicing concern that these statements potentially reflect deeper failings.

Lawyers are called to bear witness to, and provide guidance on, some of the darkest days in the lives of individuals and communities. The professional obligation of lawyers in those moments, regardless of their personal feelings, is to uphold the rule of law, to reject unethical behavior and to model the values of respect, empathy and critical thinking. This semester follows a summer of historic protests against racial inequality in our country. This is the ninth month of a global pandemic that has exposed deep fractures by race, gender and class in the United States. We are in the midst of an unprecedented presidential undermining of the integrity of our electoral process. Our commitment to our students during this time, as faculty, as officers of the court and as professionals, is to exercise judgment and leadership in our public engagement­—not to attack or appropriate vulnerable communities or promote unfounded claims that further destabilize this moment in American democracy.

Sincerely,
Anthony Alfieri, Professor of Law
Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Professor of Law and Director, Human Rights Clinic
Michael Chiorazzi, Associate Dean for Information Resources, Librarian Professor
Caroline Mala Corbin, Professor of Law & Dean’s Distinguished Scholar
Andrew B Dawson, Professor of Law & Judge A. Jay Cristol Chair in Bankruptcy Law
Mary Anne Franks, Professor of Law & Dean’s Distinguished Scholar
Frances R. Hill, Professor of Law & Dean’s Distinguished Scholar for the Profession
Elizabeth M. Iglesias, Professor of Law
Osamudia James, Professor of Law & Dean’s Distinguished Scholar
Tamara Lave, Professor of Law
JoNel Newman, Professor of Law
Jessica Owley, Professor of Law
Kunal Parker, Professor of Law & Dean’s Distinguished Scholar
Bernard Perlmutter, Professor of Law
Pablo Rueda-Saiz, Associate Professor of Law
Stephen J. Schnably, Professor of Law
Becky Sharpless, Professor of Law
Kele Stewart, Professor of Law
Irwin P. Stotzky, Professor of Law
Scott Sundby, Professor of Law & Dean’s Distinguished Scholar

Ravicher 1

Ravicher 2

UpdateMiami Law Professor Says He Was Fired Over Tweets. The University Disagrees.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/11/miami-law-faculty-condemns-colleagues-egregious-lack-of-professional-judgment-in-pro-trump-tweets.html

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

To paraphrase, “I disapprove of what Ravicher says, but I will defend his right to say it.”

In opining that “the professional obligation of lawyers in those moments . . is to uphold the rule of law, to reject unethical behavior and to model the values of respect, empathy and critical thinking,” the learned law professors claim that, by making such statements, Ravicher violated his lawyer’s professional obligations.

But if they truly believed that, the proper remedy is to file a Bar complaint where their claims, backed up by whatever evidence and legal arguments they present, can be properly judged and evaluated by those in a position to do so, and to take corrective action if necessary.

That’s what I have done in several situations, including a recent one where the complaints prevented a continuing miscarriage of justice and unconstitutional conduct.

Simply writing a polemic in a limited circulation student newspaper, with no attempt to cite any relevant authorities for the propositions they assert, is hardly an effective or sufficient response if these distinguished attorneys really believe that a colleague has violated his professional obligations as a lawyer.

Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | Nov 13, 2020 9:10:29 PM

It takes real courage to gang up on a colleague like this

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Nov 14, 2020 4:16:49 AM

The response of these professors to Tweets by a colleague with which they disagree is profoundly disturbing and sad. Of course, they each, individually, could have commented on any Tweet to express their dissent with professor Ravicher’s position. Instead, they decide to act collectively, individually taking cover in the group, and at the same time using the power of the crowd to intimidate. By acting collectively, they try to intimidate not only the professor, but also any individual faculty member of MiamiLaw who may contemplate supporting the professor’s right to express his opinions even if those opinions are disliked by some others. That colleague is put on notice that any defense of professor Ravicher will trigger the wrath of a ‘faculty mob’ and for that reason colleagues may decide to stay away from the dispute. The collective action, thus, serves to silence support and isolate professor Ravicher. Moreover, collective action is an act of intimidation towards the dean and other university administrators to preempt support for Ravicher’s right of free speech and academic freedom as administrators may try to avoid a conflict with a large group of faculty members.
It is striking that the faculty mob (of 20 professors including an associate dean) chose an open letter in a student newspaper, the Miami Hurricane, instead of a response on Twitter. While professor Ravicher can defend himself on Twitter against their attacks, it is unknown whether the newspaper will allow him to respond, so he may be defenseless. The choice for the student newspaper has also an intimidating effect to any other faculty member who contemplates on sharing his/her opinion on a public forum, if that opinion is not congruent with the opinion preferred and supported by the ‘faculty mob’. The open letter serves to publicly shame and ultimately ‘cancel’ Professor Ravicher in the community where he works. It is cowardice and shameful.
The last paragraph of the open letter shows what the real grievance is: Ravicher holds the ‘wrong’ political views as regards racial and gender inequality, election fraud, and the integrity of the electoral process. The paragraph is full of grandstanding and self-righteousness where the authors of the open letter portrait themselves as noble defenders of students, the legal profession, vulnerable communities and, indeed, American democracy itself. That approach does not render any service to the University of Miami Community and casts doubts as to the adherence of the authors of the open letter to the same values they proclaim to defend.
The position I am defending here is divorced from what professor Ravicher wrote on Twitter; rather I defend his right to say it without being attacked for having an opinion that dissents from the majority faculty view. Indeed, the open letter writers have the same free speech rights. But they don’t argue; they accuse. All students, and particular law students preparing for a professional life dealing with controversy, learn most when they are exposed to different viewpoints and opinions. Therefore, instead of simply making accusations and labeling Ravicher’s positions with negative characterizations (regardless of whether they are correct), all of the University of Miami Community would benefit from an exchange based on arguments and facts. Don’t cancel debate, encourage it. Instead of trying to silence professor Ravicher, why not organize a public debate (via Zoom if Covid restrictions require so) between the professor, allowing him to explain and provide foundation for his positions, and one of the open letter writers, evidencing why Ravicher is wrong. I volunteer to moderate.

Posted by: Robert van Brederode | Nov 14, 2020 9:03:28 AM

Ah, so here's where the bleating about absolutist free speech is hiding! I got worried after I read the Taxprof story on the Lincoln Project complaining about a law firm and saw everyone scream "How dare they talk about a law firm The Lincoln Project should be sued out of existence I need a fainting couch!!!" So it's just another case of "Free speech for me but not for thee." Got it.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 14, 2020 1:09:12 PM

First rate post, Robert.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Nov 16, 2020 10:36:56 AM

It takes real courage to perpetuate a corrupt textbook cabal in the name of helping young people.

Posted by: Efraim Ibrash | Nov 16, 2020 11:36:20 PM

UT: "So it's just another case of 'Free speech for me but not for thee.'"

Harrassment is not protected by the 1st Amendment. From Jonathan Turley's site:

"The Lincoln Project called on its almost 3 million followers to hound and harass attorneys Carolyn McGee and Ronald Hicks for assisting the Trump team in its legal battle over mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania. The Lincoln Project tweeted, 'Make them famous,' to its 2.7 million followers along with an emoji depicting a skull-and-crossbones. This is the targeting of lawyers who are doing their professional jobs in representing a client and raising allegations of voter irregularities. The Lincoln Project is clearly trying to unleash a campaign of harassment to deter them or other lawyers from taking such cases. Rather than allow the courts to simply rule on such legal challenges, the Lincoln Project is trying to scare off the lawyers."

I see absolutely no equivalency between that, and this.

Posted by: MM Classic | Nov 18, 2020 7:12:13 PM

UT:

From the New York Post, quoting court filings:

Philadelphia lawyer Linda Kerns "has been the subject of threats of harm, to the point at which the involvement of police and US Marshals has been necessary to provide for her safety."

This isn't a free speech issue, and your attempt to make it one are weak and pathetic.

Threats and harassment are not protected under long-standing and recent 1st Amendment case precedents, Watts v. U.S. and Elonis v. U.S.

Posted by: MM Classic | Nov 19, 2020 1:26:07 PM

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