Fall of the Masters

Appellate Squawk raised the first alarm.

James Levine is one of the greatest living conductors and musicians of our time. We know this because the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, which usually gets up and leaves as soon as they’ve played the last note, would stay in the pit to join in the applause when Maestro Levine was the conductor, even back in the days before he had to conduct from a wheelchair.

You may not have heard of James Levine. He’s no Meghan Trainor or Chance the Rapper.

Now he’s been destroyed by accusations from four middle-aged males claiming that he ruined their lives by masturbating them decades ago when they were 16 and 17 years old. The Met responded by summarily canceling all his scheduled appearances.

There were no police reports, no prosecutions. There will be no chance to disprove the accusations, explain, rehabilitate his reputation. This is alleged to have happened decades ago, and that’s enough to summarily ruin a master. And another master.

The Boston Conservatory at Berklee has cut ties with a high-profile professor, well known in the city’s contemporary classical music scene, amid allegations of abusive behavior and sexual improprieties.

Eric Alexander Hewitt — a saxophonist, conductor, and gatekeeper to coveted performance berths for young musicians — was placed on leave during a Globe investigation into alleged sexual mistreatment of women at the conservatory and beyond.

And yet another master.

Peter Martins, the longtime leader of New York City Ballet, has been removed from teaching his weekly class at the School of American Ballet while the two organizations jointly investigate an accusation of sexual harassment against him.

The accusation against Mr. Martins, 71, was made in an anonymous letter, both organizations confirmed on Monday. Mr. Martins is the artistic director and chairman of the faculty of the ballet school. He has led City Ballet, the company founded by the famed choreographer George Balanchine, since the 1980s.

Whether any, or all, of these accusations are true is unknown. What exactly these accusations are isn’t entirely clear. But it doesn’t matter. They aren’t made within the paradigm of legal proceedings, and so aren’t subject to the rigors of scrutiny, the “niceties” of due process, burdens of proof or rules of evidence. The silence left behind by masters will be filled with ten thousand murdered adjectives of the sad victims who now leap on the pile to enjoy their moment of victimhood.

And who will brave the tears of the woke, the screams of “misogynist,” by questioning the “bravery” of these “survivors”? Everything we know as lawyers is lost here, and yet you not only lack the principle, the fortitude, to challenge this panic? We, who defend the accused, shed everything we’ve ever believed in. You cowards. You lack the guts to stand up to the mob.

Some cross between Rachel Maddow and Emma Goldman sounds like a good start.

In 2009, Dahlia Lithwick wrote that she needed a hero. Someone who smirked where thought should be, or threw bombs where reason failed. In 2017, Lithwick piled on, because she could with impunity, having enjoyed the benefits of her access while she remained silent, and now enjoying the benefits of being a victim.

Nothing like that happened to me. But perhaps it helps you understand why, even though he never put his mouth directly on mine or clasped my throat, his consistent way of greeting me—with a kiss on the cheek that always lasted a few seconds too long, in front of colleagues I respected if not revered, so prolonged that others noted it—was unwanted.

If it was unwanted, and that’s fine if true, then why didn’t she say no? At any time. Ever. Until now, after others came forward with tales of actual conduct rather than the “always lasted a few seconds too long” nonsense?

Kozinski forced us all into this mess with him. And still, I am aware as I write this that I should have found my footing, that the women who came up after me, and who spoke up, are manifestly braver than I was. I am further aware that my failure to speak up over the course of my career is part of the reason why it was possible for the women who came after me to be treated as disrespectfully as they were.

Bullshit. Lithwick could have said no anytime she wanted. Kozinski didn’t force her into this mess. All the words that follow reflect her effort to rationalize away her failure as a writer, a lawyer, a human being with the ability to make her own choices. But she buries her disingenuous lie in a contrived excuse.

Everybody knew. This is the problem with a system of “open secrets.” All the clerks and former clerks in Kozinski’s ambit knew and understood that you assumed the risk and accepted the responsibilities of secrecy. Once you acceded to the poker games and the movies and the ritualized sex talk, you helped give it cover and license. To sit at a table with Judge Kozinski was to suspend rules for how judges talk and behave. The swearing and the gleeful overt talk of sexuality wasn’t just part of the bargain of being around him. Our silence became tacit approval of that chambers’ gleeful rejection of the strictures of political correctness and of the social imperative to police oneself.

Does this “address” Lithwick’s personal courage, her “forced” silence then and bold fifth-tier proclamation of victimhood for suffering being stare raped by Kozinksi now? Or is this pathetic rationalization for failure when it happened so she could bask in the glory of being near a legendary judge? The joke, should the Koz fall, is that he will be replaced by Trump. It’s unlikely that Rachel Maddow will make the short list.

Whether the maestros were awful, or as awful as the untested and unrebutted stories would have them, isn’t known, and will never be known. There won’t be trials and appeals. But the masters have fallen at the hands of those who enjoyed the benefits of their silence.

Now, when it’s safe to pile on, when they are assured of never being subject to scrutiny, when they can bask in their victimhood, they crawl out of the woodwork to shed their tears. At least Meghan Trainor will still be singing about her weight, even if White Christmas will never darken the airwaves again.

41 comments on “Fall of the Masters

  1. Ryan

    part of her dissonance is that she acceded to a bizarre cult that apparently only effects law clerks and maybe law professors of deifying (federal) judges. Actual law practice would clear up the issue of judicial aliyah for them.

    1. SHG Post author

      If it’s horrifying now, it was horrifying then. She gets no pass for her feelz of deification. Although, that apparently isn’t the case for an appellate judge from Kansas. Judge Leben is right that judges are primarily responsible for their conduct and the conduct of their brethren. But he’s wrong that it relieves everyone else of any responsibility, especially given that decades have elapsed since Lithwick was a clerk and still she remained silent.

        1. SHG Post author

          I had a curious twitter chat with Judge Leben a while back, when I questioned the #AppellateTwitter scolds Women in Law Day. Every female judge was lauded for her genitalia, while I suggested that it might be more substantial if they were extolled for their excellence* instead. The judge informed me that in Kansas, there were a total of 4 female Supreme Court judges. Four! That’s it!

          I understood his point, that there was rampant sex discrimination against females in the judiciary in Kansas. Somehow, he missed mine, that merely being female wasn’t a good reason to make anyone a judge, or extol them. Of course, since Clarence Thomas is black, he’s surely as valued by the woke as Thurgood Marshall, because race is all that matters.

          *Ironically, one of the judges the scolds extolled was Sharon “Killer” Keller, conclusively proving my point and their ignorance. But hey, I’m a misogynist. What do I know?

  2. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    Two things.

    First, with her recent belated account of being victimized, or as you say “stare raped” by Kozinski, perhaps Ms. Lithwick has positioned herself well to be selected as the judicial bomb thrower that she envisioned in 2009. Is that too Machiavellian?

    Second, lost in the obsession with porn, sexual innuendo and the like that consumes the #MeToo crowd is something far more important, at least to me. It permeates Heidi Bond’s heart-wrenching account. There is a strong smell that Kosinski is a sadist whose stock in trade is ridicule. From what I have read, I fear he was and is a bully who, like all bullies, punches down.

    All the best.

    Rich

    1. SHG Post author

      What will, and should, be done about Kozinski isn’t clear. It would be one thing if this wasn’t happening in the midst of rampant hysteria, but it is. It could have happened back when the computer porn news broke, when Kozinski was on the hot seat and vulnerable to being exposed for all his offenses, but it didn’t.

      Lost in the hysteria, as you note, is that Kozinski lorded over his clerks, bullied them, treated them like dirt. Was it worth it for the clerks to be near “greatness,” to take his abuse? Apparently, as there was deafening silence at the time, and no clerk ever quit in disgust, they were willing to take his shit. The excuses for not doing so are obvious. If only we were such a forgiving people at any other time in our history, or to anyone who wasn’t the exalted victim du jour.

      I don’t make light of Kozinski’s punching down. It’s a disgrace if it happened. And I wonder what the rest of the 9th Circuit is thinking, knowing that this was happening, and yet judge after judge preferred collegiality with a bully than cleaning up their own. Hey, Judge Reinhardt, what do you have to say about Judge Kozinski?

      Being that mean asshole who calls out friends and foes when they deserve it, there seems to me to be plenty of fault to spread around. Koz may win the big prize, but there is no shortage of booby prizes here. And no doubt Lithwick will be thrilled should she bring Koz down and President Trump nominates his replacement.

  3. Patrick Maupin

    Now, when it’s safe to pile on, when they are assured of never being subject to scrutiny, when they can bask in their victimhood, …

    It’s seemingly safe now, and certainly a good time to bask, but never is a really long time; approximately the amount of time it takes the internet to forget.

    1. Fubar

      Shout J’accuse in the season of witching,
      And knees all around begin twitching.
      Twitter’s now the brief hour
      For beasts slouching, strange, dour,
      To come ’round when their feelz need enriching!

  4. James L. Smith

    Wuff. Crystal Mangums, Lucy de Couteres, Marty Grists, Wendy Flanderses, Landen Gambills, Jody Raineses, Tiffany Bredfeldts, Katie Laine Berriers, and Emma Sulkowiczes (all proven Potiphar’s Wives) coming out of the woodwork like hatching termites.

  5. Bruce Godfrey

    “I am further aware that my failure to speak up over the course of my career is part of the reason why it was possible for the women who came after me to be treated as disrespectfully as they were.”

    I thought Lithwick’s acknowledgement of her ethical failure to stop this judge merited some respect. On the other hand, it’s worth mentioning that under many Bar “squeal rules” today, e.g. per the Model Rules, the conduct might have been a mandatory report to judicial discipline for a Bar member (which Lithwick might or might not have been at that time, don’t know her CV.)

    1. SHG Post author

      Had she stopped there, I would agree with you. It’s the next thousands words to rationalize her failure to say or do anything about it that turns the mea culpa into an apologia.

  6. John Barleycorn

    Two things…

    First, Is it just me or do you think the Robed Rider would look kind of sexy on the cover of Courtney Milan’s* next novel in a short wig holding a gavel with a Lelo Ella inspired maple handle banded with a stainless steel ring at the base of a black walnut faceted head?

    Second, I have been noticing that Jill, the new bailiff, is always eyeing me when I go to observe traffic court ever since the new bar tender at McGills has insisted on watching WWF reruns instead of the Young and the Restless on Tuesday afternoons. In fact she has moved from her normal bailiffs table and has recently been sitting two tables away from me now at the courthouse cafeteria.

    If I were to put a few decals of Courtney Milan’s novel covers** on my Kindle do you think Jill might think I am a perv or do you think this addition to my Kindle will add to the balance and mystery of my complimenting of how she laces her boots?

    *Heidi Bond’s pen name.

    **
    null

  7. B. McLeod

    Weel, tak the last o’ the siller, an’ buy yoursel a Jill or two
    An’ drink to the lads wha’ll buy your kye in Falkirk toun the morn.

  8. Jack Hoff

    [Ed. Note: This comment has been deleted. It was posted because I’m too naive to realize that Jack Hoff wasn’t a real name.]

    1. All the King’s Men

      Jack Hoff:
      We know who you are, and that you are an accused stalker and harasser of women. You are disgusting, and your need to insult and take down women that have nothing to do with the issue being discussed makes you an even bigger part of the problem.

      1. SHG Post author

        I posted Jack Hoff’s comment, without response, because he included his name. I trust everyone reading it will recognize that just because someone said something on the internet doesn’t make it true. You’ve now responded, attacking him as an “accused stalker and harasser of women,” but you chose not to use your real name. This doesn’t make you wrong or him right, but if you want to accuse someone, then hiding behind rocks throwing anonymous pebbles is not the way to do it.

        1. All the King’s Men

          You believe Jack Hoff is his name? Have you tried saying it out loud? It’s jackoff…..
          I assure you that is not his name. I can tell you his name.

          1. SHG Post author

            Oh crap. You’re right. I apologize. Had I realized that in the first place, I never would have posted his comment. I am stunned at my naivete sometimes.

            1. All the King’s Men

              Thank you for acknowledging the oversight! As I am the victim of his frequent cyber-harassment, I’d greatly appreciate your removing his post. It’s your blog so I cant make you, but his attack seems antithetical to the progress of discussion.

            2. SHG Post author

              I will do so. As I said, I wouldn’t have posted it in the first place but for my being too clueless to realize his name was a fake. I will now correct my mistake.

  9. Appellate Squawk

    If we had the guts, we’d defend Roy Moore too. Despite having been in his Alabama courtroom and seeing his woodburning hobbykit Ten Commandments displayed over the bench. Sex with a 14-year old is not pedophilia.

  10. Martin

    I agree with you that the current situation is ripe for abusive false claims. But I also believe that there are a LOT of people who have been abusing their professional positions to force unwanted attentions on their subordinates. And psychologically, it is neither surprising that those subordinates stayed silent in the past, nor that they are speaking out now. I’d encourage you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater as you fight against the current climate of over-acceptance of naked accusations.

    1. SHG Post author

      Here’s the problem, Martin, which invariably seems to elude many well-intended people: how do you distinguish between the two? You can cry for one side, then cry for the other, and go back and forth all day long, but it answers nothing. If only we had a mechanism to distinguish between real and false claims? If only there was a way to scrutinize allegations for their accuracy, rather than make up excuses for the indicia of falsehood? If only there was a burden of proof, a jurisprudential principal to guide us, like innocent until proven guilty?

      I’d encourage to think harder about how we decide such matters, rather than swirl around a toilet bowl until something gets flushed away.

      1. Martin

        Awareness that distinguishing the two is hard doesn’t mean that you should default to believing the accused. Rather, it means that caution is warranted. I’m old enough to remember the child abuse hysteria of the late 80s and early 90s, and the whole mess of false recovered memories. Like I said, this current situation is ripe for abuse. But your argument in the article is very dismissive of people who stayed silent in the past but are speaking up now. Dismissing them out of hand isn’t cautious or measured; nor does it seem to me to be a logical reaction to the psychology of the situation. Accusing a famous director of sexually assaulting you could easily have ended up getting an actor branded as “difficult,” “trying to blackmail his way to the top,” or to hearing endless Polanski-style stories of how much harm you did to a brilliant person. Accusing a circuit judge of sexual harassment could have caused law firms to consider you “a troublemaker.” Who wants a boss-trasher in their company? Speaking up was hardly a risk-free choice.

    2. David

      The “tell” here is this line:

      And psychologically, it is neither surprising that those subordinates stayed silent in the past, nor that they are speaking out now.

      This is pure, unadulterated rationalized bullshit, and you are totally full of it. There’s an excuse for everything, if you close your eyes and scream “lalalala” at the top of your lungs. You can pick facts or your “beliefs,” but you can’t have it both ways. Are there “a LOT” (nice use of all caps because that’s not a sign of a nutjob) because you say so? It’s idiots like you who believe whatever shit they want to believe and are so deluded as to think just because stupid shit pops into their heads, other people should believe it too.

      1. SHG Post author

        That it’s not surprising isn’t surprising, but it provides no insight into whether they false, idealized memories, free-riders, mistaken, exaggerated or lies. Lots of cheap talk, but it does nothing to inform us what to do about it. That’s why we have a legal system which, for better or worse, exists to decide.

      2. Martin

        Appeals to science aren’t “rationalized bullshit.” Psychology is a science, and there’s actually been quite lot of research in this area. Go do some reading David, and come back when you can do more than cry and stamp your feet about the mean man saying stuff you don’t like.

        1. SHG Post author

          Psychological studies show that everything you claimed is false, Martin, and that you’re either a moron or a liar. See? I just made an appeal to science. And you’re a blithering idiot. You’re gone.

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