It’s not the first time Harvard Law School students have demonstrated that they don’t deserve the legacy credibility that comes with the diploma, but this may be the most disgraceful. It was first reported in New York’s nastiest pro-cop rag, the NY Post, that Harvard Women’s Law Association and the Law and International Development Society included Robin Steinberg among the women honored for International Women’s Day, to celebrate the ILGWU’s struggle.
Robin Steinberg is among 50 female lawyers and policymakers who will be lauded next month as an “inspiration” to aspiring attorneys at the elite grad school.
So the Post fulfilled its job as PBA boss Pat Lynch’s soapbox:
NYPD union leaders blasted the school for honoring Steinberg, with Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch calling it “embarrassing.”
“In that she lied to city investigators regarding her role in the disgusting ‘Hands Up’ cop-killer video, it is obvious that she is not being honored for her ethics, integrity or for her management skills,” he fumed.
“Holding her up as a role model effectively tarnishes the award.”
So Pat Lynch fumed, as if anyone whose TV wasn’t permanently tuned to Fox News gave a damn. So the Harvard Women’s Law Association refused to be cowed by this ridiculous bluster? So they took a deep breath and put in a few moments’ effort to ascertain whether Lynch’s cries had any merit whatsoever?
Harvard Law School announced Monday that it has canceled plans to honor the suspended head of the Bronx Defenders — just hours after The Post revealed the tribute was coming despite her lying about her organization’s involvement in a notorious, anti-cop rap video.
In the time they might have spent finding out whether another woman had been thrown under the bus in the battle between a politician and the police union, they instead crafted a statement to cover their own butts:
“We did not intend for her nomination to suggest in any way that it is acceptable to harm police officers or incite others to do so,” the statement said.
“As lawyers who aspire to build a more effective criminal justice system, we believe that advocating violence against police in any form is reprehensible.”
Of course, Steinberg’s inclusion did none of these things, but they collapsed in the face of Pat Lynch’s withering bombast. Better to bask in ignorance and discard a woman, a person, who was thought worthy of honoring, at the first hint of challenge than either stand tough or, at the very least, get a clue before turning their backs.
The absurdity and cowardice of this reaction is wrong on so many levels. While there was nothing to suggest that anyone at Bronx Defenders, particularly Robin Steinberg, in any way advocated violence against police is beyond obvious, but that the Harvard Women’s Law Association rushed to disinvite her, with the speed that would bring a smile to the face of a cop demanding compliance or else, is shocking.
Several commentators unsympathetic to the Bronx Defenders have drawn attention to the DOI’s finding that Director Steinberg made misleading statements to city officials during the investigation. To my mind this is the most damning accusation: Everything else can fairly be described as a mistake, but there’s no justification for lying.
The thing is, when you actually read the DOI findings, there’s not much to it.
Indeed, it was almost entirely a matter of Steinberg’s not offering up what the DOI, in retrospect, decided she should have. Mark’s perspective is that of the non-lawyer, and he found it unpersuasive.
From a lawyer’s perspective, a basic rule applies: if you want the right answers, you need to ask the right questions. In each instance, DOI’s complaint was that Steinberg didn’t include details they would have wanted her to include, in the way they wanted her to include them, rather than the description she offered. The claim is that she failed to characterize what happened in ways the DOI would have, or would have preferred her to do so.
But there is nothing in there to suggest that she lied. Not even close.
Yet, this really isn’t the point. While this entire incident was used as a political football between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the PBA, with Steinberg sacrificing herself and two good lawyers for the sake of the people of the Bronx to bring this nonsense to an end, that students at Harvard collapsed in a puddle of tears at the first shriek by Lynch, that the Harvard Women’s Law Association threw their own honoree under the bus rather than tell the New York Post to shove it, reflects the twin demons of extraordinary cowardice and ignorance.
Way to go Harvard students. If Pat Lynch and the New York Post so scared you and made you cry that you disinvited Robin Steinberg, then you have no business wasting seats at HLS. You don’t have the right stuff in any part of your anatomy.
Update: While some at Harvard are busy cowering in the corner, others have chosen to stand up and let it be known that the Harvard Women’s Law Association does not speak for the rest of Harvard. A letter was published today in the Harvard Law Record:
The leaders of the WLA and LIDS do not speak for us. As such, we are extending our own invitation to Ms. Steinberg to speak at HLS. Our community has a lot to learn from her. We also expect these organizations to either meaningfully explain their decision or to apologize and include Robin Steinberg in the International Women’s Day Exhibit.
It’s signed by a long list of students, staff and alumni, and it restores some faith in the efficacy of Harvard as an institution of higher learning.
Update 2: Harvard lawprof Janet Halley, who was also slated to be an honoree for International Women’s Day, has rejected the award due to to the Women’s Law Association withdrawing its invitation and award to Robin Steinberg.
The list of signatories to the Harvard Law Record letter opposing the move is at 180 and growing, with other letters on their way.