USC Law turns pathetic, moves to protect snowflakes and endorse heckler's vetoes

I attended USC Law School. When I was there, I don’t recall a lot of compassion for snowflakes troubled by school speakers. That was then. Now, USC takes a bold and decisive step to self-neuter, allowing graduation speaker Jeh Johnson, Former Homeland Security Secretary, to withdraw as a graduation speaker…because some people complained about him. His comment in withdrawing was certainly diplomatic, reportedly saying that “graduations should be free of tension and political controversy.” Noble sentiment. But what it actually does is permit a heckler’s veto over any idea more milquetoast than “You all get a diploma. Yay!”

To the students crying about a former Homeland Security Secretary that, shocker, made some mild efforts to enforce border security and control immigration, drop out now. To the faculty complaining about his work — in an administration not known for its overwhelmingly harsh stance on immigration and border control — find another career, as you are unfit to craft the minds of young people into solid attorneys.

To the Dean of USC Law, grow a pair. You should have told the faculty to stuff it and told the students they were free to be elsewhere on graduation day.


Friday Open Post

So I’m going to try an experiment that will almost certainly fail, but I’m going to do it anyhow to spit into the wind. This is your chance to suggest anything you want in comments. You can propose cases to discuss (I’m still contemplating the Supreme Court’s Lamps Plus decision, so that’s covered on my list already). You can note other legal news of note. Anything (within reason - but I will bend the comment policy quite a bit to allow for far-ranging topics).

Related to comments, I’ve updated this blog to use Disqus for comment functions. I wanted to see if it generates any more community discussion. Probably not, because lawyers, for whatever reason, are resistant to actively engaging with sites like this. What I have yet to figure out is why lawyers do so much on LinkedIn but not blogs. Anyhow, go crazy! Comment! Give you review of Avengers: Endgame in the comments.

A word to the (un)wise...

Work product gets reused by other attorneys all the time in the legal profession. No big deal, right? If someone crafts a good argument on an issue, and someone else is facing that same issue, it makes sense to present that good argument. I take no issue with that.

What I do take issue with, however, is false attribution of the original source of the argument. That treads into dangerous terrain. I note this distinction because it has come to my attention that an “enterprising” young lawyer out there copied a large number of very elaborately formatted and designed Microsoft Word templates and then began passing them off as his own to other employers. Re-using an argument I’ve created is fine. Who could blame you really? But to tell an employer that you bring value because of the hard work that went into creating the templates that you ripped? That’s just shady. I am providing this public service announcement while maintaining the anonymity of the little rapscallion in the hope that this friendly note will encourage more honest disclosures going forward. By the way, I have the very first versions of many of those templates (like the mediation brief format I devised to resemble an appellate brief, rather than a letter or a pleading), creation-date-stamped and all, so I could prove my point if I had no other option…

A word to the…wise.

LAW-LESS FRIDAY: Conflicting signals for the health of the legal job market

Well, it isn't a post that is devoid of law as a subject, but no appellate decisions to digest here at any rate.

Two stories caught my eye over at  In the first, it is reported that young associate hiring is set to increase at law firm. Yay! But, in the second, a hint that large corporation general counsel are looking at refusing to pay for time billed by young associates.  That would impact the leverage model that large firms use.  I suppose one is a longer term trend while the hiring is immediate, but it isn't outside the realm of possibility that the net impact of service outsourcing and automation, coupled with events like the proposed refusal to pay for young associates, might result in the substantial restructuring of the legal market in the next couple of decades.


Occidental College, my alma mater, vexes me greatly

Hey, so I went to Occidental College.  Just like Mr. Obama (Emily Post says the title of "President" ends with the end of the term of office - yes, I checked).  Two differences stand out between us, I think.  I graduated.  And he's more famous.  Oh, plus I never inhaled.

So I mention Occidental College because I received correspondence from my alma mater today that struck me immediately as insipid and deeply troubling.  Here's what the e-mail said:

To the Occidental Community,

n Charlottesville last weekend, we saw the ugly face of racism and hate, naked and unadorned. White supremacy in all of its manifestations is an assault on the fundamental values of Occidental, the community of scholars of which we are a part, and the kind of country we want to be. Love of knowledge, intellectual rigor and mutual respect are essential in creating the kind of just, inclusive and loving community we all want to be a part of. As we welcome the Class of 2021 to campus next week, and throughout the coming months, let’s embrace these values as we continue our effort to create such a community here at Oxy.


President Veitch

A few questions came to mind immediately.  The first thing I asked myself was whether the current crop of incoming students needs to be told that white supremacists are bad.  It never came up when I was there, but I'm really confident that had I conducted a poll, 100% of my classmates would have, without hesitation, said, "Bad."  (A few might have first asked if it was some sort of trick.)  This would have been the easiest quiz, with the highest average score in the history of Occidental.

But, today, not so much.  The school has to tell them it's bad.  Here's my first tip to the admissions committee at Occidental:  if you think you need to tell incoming freshmen this, raise your standards. You are diluting the value of my degree.  Maybe there's a class action there.  Kidding. Probably.  No, kidding for sure.

The second thing I asked myself was why the President of Occidental didn't think to make any mention of the fact that Occidental also abhors the use of violence to silence even reprehensible hate speech.  I've heard quite a few political commentators in recent months suggesting that the First Amendment doesn't protect "hate speech."  Go check with a colleague that practices First Amendment law and see if they concur.  Surely it must be the case that as much as hateful viewpoints like white supremacy, misogyny, or other bigoted beliefs are contrary to fundamental values of Occidental, so, too, are any attempts to forcibly silence even unpleasant ideas.  However, as I am sure that President Veitch did not issue this letter without substantial thought and input, I have to wonder whether the omission of any warning to new students that violent suppression of speech will not be tolerated was intentional.

I can't say it isn't tempting to be sympathetic, for a moment, when a nutter white supremacist is receiving a beat down with a club.  But I would caution everyone to remember Neimoller's words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

You can't send a message that criticizes what is, fortunately, a viewpoint considered by a vast majority of Americans as reprehensible while tacitly condoning vigilantism to silence that idea (if you actually doubt that, consider that a little more than 100 years ago, the KKK had membership in the millions, but a century later the membership was believed to be under 10,000). Violent repression of speech won't stop at the white supremacists.  It's already moved past that. Recall riots at Berkley, the birthplace of contrary viewpoint expression, to silence a speaker.  If thuggish retaliation against speech is allowed to build up a head of steam, it will be hard to stop.

Occidental's alumni should be very disappointed by the absence of a strong message renouncing violence to limit speech and encouraging civil dialog between members of the Occidental community at all times (with at least an implied reminder that anyone acting contrary to that principle will need to find themselves a new college to attend in short order).

I would note, in closing, that Occidental's website does a far better job of recognizing that dialog can often be challenging, but open discussion and critical thinking are central to the educational mission.  Why doesn't the President of Occidental know that?