At Bari Weiss’ Common Sense Substack, The Washington Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium has chronicled how America’s law schools have succumbed to woke activists and cancel culture enthusiasts, becoming “safe spaces” where professors can’t teach sexual assault law or explain why guilty people deserve a robust defense.
The adversarial legal system—in which both sides of a dispute are represented vigorously by attorneys with a vested interest in winning—is at the heart of the American constitutional order. Since time immemorial, law schools have tried to prepare their students to take part in that system.
Not so much anymore. Now, the politicization and tribalism of campus life have crowded out old-fashioned expectations about justice and neutrality. The imperatives of race, gender and identity are more important to more and more law students than due process, the presumption of innocence, and all the norms and values at the foundation of what we think of as the rule of law.
Professors told Sibarium it is “harder to lecture about cases in which accused rapists are acquitted, or a police officer is found not guilty of abusing his authority.” One criminal law professor at a top law school told the reporter he’s even “stopped teaching theories of punishment because of how negatively students react to retributivism—the view that punishment is justified because criminals deserve to suffer.”
“I got into this job because I liked to play devil’s advocate,” the tenured professor, who identifies as a liberal, told Sibarium. “I can’t do that anymore. I have a family.”
Sibarium notes that while critical race theory was once available for study in America’s elite institutions, it has now become mandatory:
Starting this Fall, Georgetown Law School will require all students to take a class “on the importance of questioning the law’s neutrality” and assessing its “differential effects on subordinated groups,” according to university documents obtained by Common Sense. UC Irvine School of Law, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law, and Boston College Law School have implemented similar requirements. Other law schools are considering them.
As of last month, the American Bar Association is requiring all accredited law schools to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism,” both at the start of law school and “at least once again before graduation.” That’s in addition to a mandatory legal ethics class, which must now instruct students that they have a duty as lawyers to “eliminate racism.” (The American Bar Association, which accredits almost every law school in the United States, voted 348 to 17 to adopt the new standard.)
Sibarium also provides ample evidence that the wokeness taught in today’s law schools aren’t staying there. The quest for racial equity at the expense of justice is seeping into the judiciary, aiding defendants with the “right” political positions and damaging those who don’t subscribe to the activist religion:
During the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, for example, Massachusetts Superior Court judge Shannon Frison vowed on Facebook to “never be silent or complicit again, in any courtroom or any context.” “As the very keepers of justice,” she said, judges “not only stand with the protesters—we fall with them.”
Case in point: the case of Montez Terriel Lee, Jr.
On May 28, 2020, Lee, Jr., then 25 years old, broke into the MaX it PAWN Shop, in Minneapolis. It had been three days since George Floyd had been murdered by a white police officer, about ten blocks south, and the city had been engulfed by riots. As looters grabbed whatever they could find, Lee poured lighter fluid all over the pawn shop. Then, he set it on fire. Outside, Lee raised his arm and clenched his fist. In a video, he can be seen saying, “Fuck this place. We’re gonna burn this bitch down.”
At the time, Lee was unaware that Oscar Stewart, Jr., a 30-year-old father of five, was trapped inside and that he would die of smoke inhalation and excessive burns. A little over two weeks later, police arrested Lee, who pleaded guilty to arson.
Usually, this sort of crime, according to federal sentencing guidelines, would have landed Lee in prison for up to 20 years. But the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, only asked for 12 years.
In his pre-sentence filing, Calhoun-Lopez portrayed Lee not as a rioter but a protester. “Mr. Lee was terribly misguided, and his actions had tragic, unthinkable consequences. But he appears to have believed that he was, in Dr. King’s eloquent words, engaging in ‘the language of the unheard.’”
The judge, Wilhelmina Wright, appeared to buy that argument. On January 14, she handed down a sentence of just 10 years—even fewer than the prosecution had asked for.
Read the full article here.
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