Baltimore lawprof Garrett Epps is feeling pretty good about himself. When he taught law in Oregon, Mike Arnold and Tiffany Harris were in his class. And there they were, on the TV screen, representing Ammon Bundy.
In the early hours of the morning, law professors wonder whether anything we do makes the world a better place.
Today, I feel pretty sure that the answer is yes. That’s because, on January 28, I awoke to a televised image of Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Mike Arnold of Eugene, Oregon, reading a statement urging the other Malheur protesters to stand down. Arnold is a former student of mine. So is Tiffany Harris of Portland, who represents Shawna Cox, the 59-year-old woman who was arrested in the car with LaVoy Finicum, the militant spokesman who was shot during a traffic stop near the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
I couldn’t be prouder.
The putative purpose of Epps’ Atlantic post is to speak of the nobility of defending the unpopular defendants.
But if there is one thing law professors tell students, it is this: Under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, every defendant is entitled to “assistance of counsel for his [or her] defense.” In a just society, government should ensure that no person is convicted or imprisoned who has not had a fair trial, with a lawyer equipped and willing to speak for him or her. When asked to be part of that process, lawyers have a calling to step forward if they can help.
So it’s not about the lawyer who does the heavy lifting, but the lawprof who instilled this virtue in his students? So we should build a statue for Epps? Fair enough. If we’re going to erect a statue to a lawprof, Epps isn’t a terrible choice.
But before we start melting the bronze, let’s first give a little deeper thought to Epps’ assertion, “But if there is one thing law professors tell students…” Some law professors, perhaps. And whether the “one thing” language is a bit hyperbolic can be overlooked as a rhetorical device. But all law profs?
Two comments here were so scary that I refused to reply. The first was:
In defense of not taking evidence as a law school class–given the way academics teach, someone who learns evidence entirely through BAR/BRI’s courses that actually focus on black letter evidence law as it applies in practice may very well be better off than someone who learned evidence from a professor who spends half the semester on why corroboration and authentication requirements are unjust oppression of rape victims.
It was followed up by:
That was my experience, too. Word here in Idaho is that our University of Idaho Law School will stop teaching criminal law altogether. In its place- Criminal Mediation. Because that’s the future of law.
I’m not usually at a loss for words, but these comments got me. And sandwiched between them was one more comment of note:
Mary Anne is teaching evidence now?
That, of course, is a reference to Mary Anne Franks, the non-lawyer lawprof messiah of revenge porn. And no, she doesn’t teach evidence. She teaches criminal law. And First Amendment law. There are no words to describe the absurdity of having someone teach law when her career is dedicated to the undoing of the law she is supposed to be teaching.
So no, Garrett, not all law professors teach their students to honor their duty under the Sixth Amendment, to defend those accused no matter how unpopular. Some law profs have dedicated their pedagogy to punishing the unpopular, to denying them constitutional rights, to indoctrinating their students to their peculiar politics and making them stupider.
That’s great that you feel responsible, proud, of your former students, though one might wonder how much influence you had over their fulfilling their duty to defend their clients. But what is the legal academy doing about those other lawprofs, the ones who are inexplicably allowed near students to pollute their minds with their personal agendas that the Constitution is wrong and evil, and that the targets of their hatred should be destroyed?
Is it just about what one lawprof does, or is it about how self-proclaimed scholars have chosen to use their opportunity to shape young minds to pray to whatever god the lawprofs adore?
Is this academic freedom? Does this mean that lawprofs can teach students that the First Amendment doesn’t protect hate speech, because that’s what they want it to mean? Does it mean that lawprofs can teach students not to defend the accused, when the accusation is of an offense they find reprehensible?
Does this mean that you, Garrett, can pat yourself on the back in the Atlantic because your students made you proud, while saying nothing about how your fellow lawprofs are polluting their students’ minds with lies about what the Constitution says, what it means, what their duty is under the law?
That’s great that you did your job teaching your students to respect their constitutional obligations. But if you want a statue, you will need to do more. It’s not just about your students, but about your silence as the other lawprofs pervert their position by failing to teach law students what it means to be a lawyer. That would be statue worthy.