Harvard Law School has abandoned one of the core principles of American jurisprudence — a citizen’s right to counsel when standing alone before the state.
[UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! I hope you appreciate this post — and I hope that you read it through the filter that Glenn Reynolds provided: “To be fair, Rakesh Khurana is the Dean of Harvard College. The Law School itself hasn’t done anything wrong.” It was careless of me to make that mistake, but I stand by the general principles that animate this post regarding a lawyer’s role in keeping the government honest.]
I went to law school in a red state during the Reagan era. As you can imagine, law and order was a big deal there and then. Early on in my Constitutional Law class, our professor (a very famous Con Law scholar, I might add) asked the class for a show of hands signaling which of us would be willing to represent a defendant we knew was guilty of a heinous crime. Not a single hand went up.
He scolded us soundly and I have never forgotten what he said. I can’t remember it verbatim, I’m sorry to say, but I can remember the gist:
He said that, because the state’s police power is so vast; because it is judge, jury, and executioner; because it has a permanent cadre of lawyers dedicated to prosecuting law that they know intimately; and because of the breadth and depth of the state’s access to information, no one should ever have to face the law entirely alone.
Every individual, no matter how awful he is or seems to be, should have someone at his side when facing the awesome majesty of the government. We do this, not to allow bad people to escape justice, but to ensure that the government doesn’t abuse the tremendous power it has.
I found that very profound. But apparently my professor — and I did mention that he was a very famous Con Law professor — would be drummed out of Harvard Law School for that viewpoint:
A Harvard Law School professor who became a lightning rod on the Ivy League campus for working on the legal defense team of Harvey Weinstein has been let go as a faculty dean.
Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College, announced his decision in an email to residents of the school’s Winthrop House, calling the situation “untenable” and saying it was “informed by a number of considerations.”
Sullivan has been under fire from students since January when he emerged as one of the attorneys representing Weinstein in the media mogul’s upcoming trial where he faces multiple sex-crime charges.
From everything I’ve read, Harvey Weinstein is a scum bucket. He’s also an individual faced with the awesome majesty of the state, which acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and which has aggressive prosecutors on its permanent payroll (courtesy of the taxpayers). Our constitutional system holds that he is entitled to have a friend at his side in the court to make sure that the government does not abuse its incredible power. It is ironic that Harvard Law, probably the most prestigious law school in the country, has decided to punish the professor who took on that role.
Harvard Law School’s allegiance to law, to due process, to constitutionality, and to ordinary human decency is so tenuous as to be non-existent. And here’s the really funny thing: Ronald Sullivan Jr. is black. Given how Lefties are certain that the criminal law system is fatally flawed because of how it treats blacks, it’s ironic that it is demeaning a black man who is working to ensure justice within the criminal law system.
We in America take due process for granted without realizing how tenuous it is. About 15 years after Franco’s rule ended, I was on vacation in Spain with my mother. She was driving along at a modest speed because (a) that was how she drove and (b) she was in a foreign country. Nevertheless, a police officer pulled us over. We weren’t unique in being singled out. There were several police officers and they were pulling over every car they could.
The police officer who pulled us over was a happy, smiling man. He came over, announced that we were speeding, and told us to pay him the equivalent of $500. You’re going to write a ticket, right? That’s what we tried to mime at least. No. He was very clear. The money now, he indicated with a smile, or I arrest you. Fortunately, we had taken cash with us and were able to give it to him. We noticed that everyone else was paying up too.
When we arrived at our hotel, the clerk spoke fluent English. We explained to her what happened, because we thought we had fallen into the clutches of a particularly corrupt group of cops. She enlightened us: That’s how it’s done in Spain, she said. It’s a remnant of the Franco period. The cops are a law unto themselves and function as judge, jury, and executioner. Some of the money they collect even gets returned to the public till, although most lines their pockets.
I don’t know if that’s still the case in Spain, but I do know that’s the case in Vietnam, a communist country without an American-style constitution and without due process. A friend just returned from a visit to Vietnam. She told us how their guide got pulled over for speeding when he wasn’t speeding, and how he paid the cop then and there. When she and her husband commiserated with the driver, he shrugged. That’s just how it is in Vietnam. Police are judge, jury, and executioner.
Thanks to our Founders’ genius, our constitutional system is entirely about dis-empowering government. Part of that means that cops are neither judge, nor jury, nor executioner. They are merely authorized to bring people within the process. Once individuals are in the process, they need to be assured that someone will make sure that, as to them, that process is fair. That’s what lawyers are for. They’re not there to cheat or manipulate the law; they’re there to keep the government honest.
Harvard Law School no longer believes in the principle that criminal defense attorneys exist, not just to defend alleged criminals, but to keep the government honest. Instead, Harvard Law School has become so Leftist that, as to those it deems guilty (regardless of the absence of any formal process proving that guilt), it has abandoned any pretense of putting due process fetters on the law. And if one of its own forgets that animus trumps principle, even if he’s black, Harvard Law School will punish him.
(Image of Professor Sullivan from his Twitter Feed.)