Friday, May 17, 2019

Stop Talking About Harvard

For some reason minor things that happen at Harvard are always national news. The latest is the law professor who moonlights as a House Dean (which means he lives in a dorm apartment and has some custodial/guidance role for students, including where they go to report things like Title IX issues) who also is going to moonlight as a highly paid defense lawyer for Harvey Weinstein because I guess that's just the kind of thing law professors do. Nice work! Humanities professors other than law professors (who are also, too, humanities professors even though they pretend otherwise) are a bit confused by this state of affairs, but that's another issue.

Lots of people are up in arms because apparently if ever someone receives any criticism for being a defense lawyer then no one can ever get an adequate defense again, and the shortcomings in our justice system begin with Harvey Weinstein, a very rich guy who will have a team of very high priced lawyers, including this one who has lost has dorm apartment after a long history of complaints. I, too, think all people should get adequate defense and think that lawyers should generally not be criticized for taking on clients, even ones accused of doing horrific things. I am not sure how this inviolate principle, which most people talking about just decided was important 3 days ago, extends to the idea that the undergraduate college at Harvard University should never consider whether someone's third (!!!) job might conflict with their second. No one's trying to banish the guy from polite society for agreeing to earn buckets of money to defend Harvey Weinstein (although to be honest, if lawyers make their reputations defending high profile clients, I don't see why this can't break them, too, but I digress...).

The idea that lawyers should be able to defend scumbags (fair!) does not mean that lawyers are free from all criticism and it certainly does not mean that another employer could ever find a reasonable conflict between their lawyer job and their non-lawyer job of running a college dorm.

It is dumb that the hiring decisions for a dorm counselor (despite the fancy title, that's what it is) at Harvard becomes national news as there are almost always better examples to use to defend whatever important principle you are defending, though generally the important principle in all of these situations is "the right of Harvard professors to not be criticized by students - except when I agree with those criticisms - shall not be abridged." I have no opinion on who Harvard should hire for their dorm counselors!

But the Weinstein trial isn't just about defending a scumbag. The alleged victims are going to be dragged inside and outside of the courtroom. High profile cases with expensive lawyers such as this aren't just about what goes on in the courtroom, they also involve an extensive PR battle. It may not be obstruction of justice to smear the accusers in the press as a way of pressuring them to go away, but that's what is going to happen. The trial is going to be gross in every way, and much of it will be how it plays out in public. This isn't To Kill A Mockingbird. It's gonna be a sleazy. 19-year old college student might not feel comfortable reporting her sexual assault to the guy helping to smear accusers in the press! Not so crazy!

Weinstein deserves representation and he's rich so he's going to get a lot of it! Congratulations to all the lawyers who are going to get rich doing this very important job. Sorry one of you lost your dorm apartment.