Should Law Schools Pursue “Social Justice”?

Many, if not most, law schools proclaim that they will advance “social justice.” My own law school recently pledged to use part of the generous 100 million dollar gift from the Pritzkers to do just that. Generally the pursuit of such justice is done through clinics, which represent clients, but have larger objectives in their choice of representation, such as ending the death penalty, protecting rent control, or increasing environmental regulation.

A commitment to social justice creates some tensions with the ideal of a university as a place of open inquiry. First, clinics are enterprises of political action. But the essence of a university is the production of ideas, and political aims are not easily made compatible with purely intellectual ones. Politics, including the politics of litigation, requires one to take positions with a view to success. The university, in contrast, prizes ideas that are novel, coherent and logically consistent, regardless of the immediate real world impact.

Beyond this abstract tension, the pursuit of a particular vision of justice can make it harder for research faculty to pursue opposing viewpoints. Some years back, Northwestern Law School’s criminal law clinic crusaded successfully for a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. This effort became part of the school’s identity. In that atmosphere few professors would have had the temerity to start writing in favor the death penalty.

Moreover, as activists, clinicians will likely move a school toward more activism if they can vote on its direction. Certainly if they are able to vote on tenured appointments for the research faculty, as they can at some schools, one might fear that their interest in activism would detract from the political neutrality of the principles by which scholarship should be judged.

The second problem  is that there is disagreement about the nature of social justice, but law schools tend to define it from one perspective–that of the left.  Indeed, the term social justice might be regarded itself  as ideologically loaded. Libertarians, for instance, might think that justice is always individual justice. But, in any event, one can disagree about the justice of the death penalty or rent control.   Few, if any clinics however, are devoted to defending the death penalty or representing the families of homicide victims or deregulating the economy. The one-sided nature of social justice pursued also has an adverse effect on the intellectual atmosphere. The research faculty at the typical law school leans decidedly left to begin with, but the largely uniform left inflection of social justice clinics makes for an even more insular ideological climate.

To correct this latter problem, I have a modest proposal. On any controversial matter where clinics will be pursuing social justice, a law school should establish two clinics. Thus, if there is a clinic whose focus is on representing those charged with death penalty, there should be another to represent murder victims to help them make victim impact statements. If there is a clinic representing tenants, there should be another representing small landlords. Cases could be chosen to avoid direct conflict. Such a dual focus would reduce the politicization of legal education and be pedagogically useful as well. Students could be encouraged to participate in the clinic that went against the grain of their social justice priors. Such an education might actually stretch their minds rather than close them.

 

John O. McGinnis

John O. McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern University. His book Accelerating Democracy was published by Princeton University Press in 2012. McGinnis is also the coauthor with Mike Rappaport of Originalism and the Good Constitution published by Harvard University Press in 2013 . He is a graduate of Harvard College, Balliol College, Oxford, and Harvard Law School. He has published in leading law reviews, including the Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford Law Reviews and the Yale Law Journal, and in journals of opinion, including National Affairs and National Review.

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  1. gabe says

    Ahhh!!!! The return (once again) of the Fairness Doctrine – now for law schools and lawyers.
    Hey, wasn’t it a bunch of lawyers who originally concocted this scheme.
    Kind of like bringing back paisley ties or something? at a time when no one wears ties anymore!

    • nobody.really says

      Cute, gabe!

      And McGinnis is as thought-provoking as ever.

      I occasionally help a progressive colleague of mine, “Lord Slum Lord,” renovate and rent cheap housing to working-class people, often recent immigrants. He regards this as his mission/calling/hobby; it is far from a lucrative line of work. And the costs are increased by the practices of the local law school’s social justice clinic, which is quite adept at advising clients how to drag out the eviction process or avoid paying for property damage.

      In effect, the clinic creates a “barrier to exit” — with the predictable result that my friend will now leave apartments vacant rather than rent them to people whom he merely suspects will pose a problem. You could argue that the clinic’s practices promote justice for specific individuals. But do they advance social justice? Don’t their practices really result in harm to the members of society at large?

      (Fortunately(?), my friend’s reluctance tp rent is moderated by a countervailing threat: copper thieves. People will break into vacant buildings and strip out all the metal for salvage value. In contrast, even deadbeat tenants generally won’t cannibalize the plumbing and electrical facilities in their own home. So my friend must balance the risk and cost of evicting a deadbeat tenant with the risk and cost of falling prey to looters.)

      • Joe crew says

        I agree with your observations. Further, in a previous life I worked for a corporation who sought to bring good jobs to a poor area. We did succeed because a local law school clinic fought us. Of course they used public funds while we had to earn our dollars. That area still has no jobs and probably will remain a wasteland.

  2. says

    Here’s a perhaps constructive alternate proposal.

    Your university establishes collaboration by liberal law professors and conservative law professors to launch the culture of civic law professors. Borrowing from Flores again, collaborating to produce value is very different from communicating to maximize the self-interest of opposing parties. Also, collaboration within a university is both more efficient than competitive class offerings and facilitates personal liberty with civic well-being for the professors. Lastly, academic collaboration would help restore the sense that the law has one goal: justice rather than dominance.

    “Civic” refers to the ineluctable connections persons have because they collaborate for life during the same years on the same land and differs from either “public,” which refers to all inhabitants including criminals, or “social,” which refers to association by preference or class. This definition of “civic” is critical to any university administrator’s understanding of the proposal.

    Neither my interest in the civic preamble to the constitution for the USA nor my interest in physics-based ethics as a mediator for opinion-based law is necessary for this proposal, but understanding the concepts might help sustain collaboration for a civic academic culture.

    • gabe says

      Yes, but will it keep the copper pipes in the walls? or perhaps, a few thieves simply view the removal of said pipes as an occasion for *collaboration.*

    • z9z99 says

      Phil,

      May I make a suggestion? It’s just a suggestion; I have no stake in whether you take it or not, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t.

      Imagine you are investigating facts about the surface of the earth, and you ask three educated persons to give you an overview. The first tells you that three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered with water, the second says that the earth’s surface is made up of liquid water, ice and dry land, and the third tells you “there are two types of areas on earth: those where orchids grow naturally, and those where they do not.”

      Now this last comment is definitely true, but doesn’t it seem a bit odd? Would you suspect that the person making it has an interest in orchids that you may or may mot share, and that you know little more about the answer to your original question than you did before he answered it? Or imagine that your basic chemistry professor announced at the beginning of the term “there are two types of chemical reactions: Cannizzarro reactions and non-Cannizzaro reactions.” Would you perhaps suspect that maybe his interests are a bit narrow, and the distinction made might not be as useful to a beginning student as that between, say organic and inorganic reactions, endothermic and exothermic, spontaneous and endergonic, etc.?

      When people divide things into classes for that sake of analysis, they so so according to defined, and hopefully articulable discriminants, and it is in the contexts of these discriminants that thoughtful and useful analyses take place. It is the quality and clarity of these discriminants that determine the quality, and usefulness of debate. Virtually every original post on this forum adheres to this form: note in the instant post by Professor McGinnis that he makes two distinctions; i.e. defines two discriminants: that between political and purely intellectual aims, and another between left wing and right wing ideas of social justice. His post would make little sense if he did not identify these distinctions in his argument. Likewise the thing that made Machiavelli such an important political philosopher was that he was very perceptive and practical about the discriminants that he chose, such as whether it is better for a ruler to be loved or feared. When the contributors here post an idea that contains discriminants and disctictions (such as Prof. Rappaport discoursing between originalist and non-originalsist views, or Prof. McGinnis discussing the types of technology that are and are not desirable as part of political progress, or Professor Greve discussing the difference between the graceful theory of executive administration, and its clunky, clumsy character in practice) it is a highly useful courtesy to respect the distinctions that they have made, and to critique them and challenge them and provide individual perspective on them.

      If you carefully analyze the distinctions that are presented here, or those that divided Madison and Hamilton, or Bolshevik and Menshevik, and so on, you will note certain characteristics of useful distinctions:

      First, they tend to be made around points of equilibrium; that is they tend to divide matters into roughly equal competing groups, whether those groups consist of ideas, doctrines, beliefs, historical interpretations, or whatever. This is so because for all of the theory, doctrines and dogma that man can come up with, events, circumstances, competition, cooperation and dumb luck manage to keep the world from getting too out of balance. The world was, is and will be bipolar. Secondly, the distinctions tend not to be prescribed as much as observed. This is why the discussions of history on this site are so useful. The real contributors to political thought do not seek to stop, or start great movements; they know enough to merely try to guide them as events move by invisible and inevitable forces. Thirdly, the distinctions lead to competing views that are typically not that far apart. Again, this is because the skilled politician and skilled political philosopher know that the distinctions and discriminants in human affairs depend on small persuasions across those fault lines. The competing sides prefer to be as closely aligned as possible to the direction that human nature, circumstances and cold reality move events. Finally, this site is in some manner a marketplace of ideas, and like any other marketplace, there must be a proximity between what a buyer is willing to pay and what a seller is willing to accept. It is unlikely that novel theories will find a following in a forum where so much judgment is informed by experience, skepticism and aversion to wishful thinking.

      So her is my suggestion. take some time and try to appreciate the splendid thinking that is expressed here by contributors and commenters alike. Recognize when nobody like someone.really, I mean someone like nobody.really points out a relevant distinction as he did between honor and dignity cultures, or when Gabe points out that a particular argument is really just a paraphrase of the difference between collective and individual centered approaches to government. You will find lots of meaningful distinctions here: the difference between r and K procreation strategies; between protection of expression and protection of feelings, between collective and individual interests; between diversity and assimilation, etc. etc. Read the contributors and identify the distinctions they make that are central to their arguments and see if you have anything to say about those distinctions and resist the temptation to say “No, no. I propose a better premise.” Note the selectivity of R Richard Schweitzer’s comments and how gracefully he applies them to other’s opinions. The comments here tend to contain minimal (some, but minimal) rancor, personal attacks or garden variety nuttiness, compared to other sites. See if you have an opinion as to why that is.

      One of the things that you get on this site is that meaningful distinctions are selected by professionals. Guys like Rappaport and McGinnis and Daniels (Dalrymple) get paid to identify, develop and present meaningful and important distinctions that we hoi polloi get to mull over and express our opinions on. They generally present arguments on the world as it is (a quite difficult thing to do) rather than telling us how things would be so much better if they were in charge. Collective discourse on a thoughtful point leads to collegiality and if you are seeking collaboration, you would be much better served developing collegiality than by announcing that you have a great idea and that everyone should come join you. Take the distinctions that Prof. McGinnis has identified above and force yourself to argue both sides of the discriminant before proposing a new one. Look at the structure of the responses to see what people do and do not find persuasive; then undertake to present and defend your position.

      Or not….

      • says

        z9z99,

        I can’t tell you how much I appreciate such and outpouring of sympathy over my lack of propriety for your forum.

        It reminds me of the time, after I had spent fifteen years worshiping in both my Baptist church (I had eight functions there when I resigned) and in the Catholic church with my family, and approached a favorite priest and asked him to serve me the eucarist in remembrance rather than as transubstantiation. He listened to my desire to more completely express family unity. His response was “If you want to join the club, you have to observe the rule.” I am abbreviating six months of weekly meetings about the theology. A person has to appreciate a Monsignor spending that much effort for just one “soul”, but a person can also choose personal liberty.

        You seem to look at me as a narrow minded nut whom you’d like to send to Coventry, as gabe would. You certainly started with a false analogy and a really weird one. However, I look at myself as a person who has the dedication to explore a problem at it’s bedrock. Opinion-based law is no better than opinion-based religion.

        I wish you and perhaps others in the forum would address my statements rather than your emotions about my statements. In this instance, the value of my response to Professor McGinnis’ post would be better served by your critique of my definition of “civic” that is essential to my proposal.

        If you accepted my definition of “civic” so as to understand my proposal, you could then understand that “the culture of civic law professors” eliminates neither the left faction nor the right faction, but the collaboration empowers them to discover justice rather than one to dominate by popular, misappropriated forces like “equality” according to the lord of dignity, Justice Kennedy.

        You refer to “movement.” I am not the sponsor of a movement. Nobody collaborates on A Civic People of the United States without wanting to, and there are very few who want to. (One reason for that is that I do not contact many people about it, because there is so much I do not know. This forum has taught me very much.) Back to persons in general, most people believe that their side is going to dominate, I think. However, they do not realize they are being played by the politician-priest partnership. But I speculate that 70 % of people in the USA want civic morality; it just never has been offered. Religious, Blackstone derived morality is offered.

        It is alright for someone to live their life to save their soul in heaven. But it is not alright to attempt to use the law to impose that life on other people. Civic morality is more just than religious morality. Nobody should understand that better than this forum, and I hope the forum will reduce my ignorance . . . one way or another, according to personal liberty.

        • z9z99 says

          O.K. Phil, you missed the point. Let me just spell it out for you. The analogy regarding making bizarre distinctions applies to you. You have introduced an odd and uncompelling distinction between what you call PLwCGW and everything else. Like the person who makes odd and uncompelling distinctions related to orchids, or chemical reactions, you have signaled an insular and idiosyncratic interest that you give no one reason to care about. You may as well post your arguments on Match.com or Carmax. Your personal testimonies regarding your religious journeys make your point no more compelling, and your habit of resorting to petulant condescension when people will not waste their time on your pet theories is to say the very least off-putting. Good luck with that.

          My post was not meant to criticize or chastise; it was a sincere suggestion for how you might more effectively engage others here to develop your ideas. That you took it as you did bodes poorly for “collaboration.”

          But, since you took the time to ask, let me at least offer my critique on your definition of “civic.” It is not very good. It is not particularly useful to any meaningful interaction between dorm-room bull theories and cold-blooded reality. You give no hint as to how your concept accommodates the high degree of sociopathy found among political leaders, or whether the concept may be gamed in the real world to promote corruption rather than oppose it. It does not account for the socializing instincts that impel some people toward collaborations and others away from them. It does not address the likelihood that different concepts of virtue lead to different concepts of force and coercion, of justice and prosperity. Is civic virtue maintained by reason or force? In other words, your definition of civic is half-baked, and you have not made a case why anyone other than fellow travelers should give it any more consideration despite that impression. You point to no real world examples that illustrate your “bedrock” concepts, which if they were really bedrock, you should have no trouble doing. A definition is not a theory.

          Your method of starting with what you call physics is at least defensible, but unoriginal. Descartes started with cogito, ergo sum, and undertook to build a first philosophy. Yet, here we are. Your dismissal of religious based morality is too dogmatic; you don’t seem to consider that religious doctrines and moral principles might be the result of the same empiric processes of observation, deduction and inference that led to Kepler’s laws, or Newtonian mechanics, which then had to make room for quantum physics and relativity. Has it occurred to you that certain religious doctrines and traditions have survived because they are useful, regardless of their origins?

          You haven’t provided sufficient rationale for your distinction (there’s that word again) between civic, public and social. Why is anyone supposed to care? Are you appropriating settled words and according them novel definitions to give your definitions a legitimacy that they otherwise would not have? Would your ideas perhaps be better served with neologisms, rather than distorting settled meanings? Do these distinctions have any historical precedents, say for example in ancient Rome or the French Revolution? What are the consequences of conflating “civic” and “public”? What forces maintain the distinctions?

          And for the record, I do not view you as a narrow minded nut, although for all I know, you are. I don’t know you well enough to have an opinion. My impression though, is that you are someone who has a strong desire to advance a personal belief, but is not doing a very good job of it.

          I wish you the best.

          • gabe says

            Z:

            Spot-on!!

            Phil:

            Let me begin by reformulating a Yogi-ism. Yogi Berra said: ‘You can observe a lot just by watching.”

            Correct – but its real import may not become evident until formulated as follows:
            One can make critical OBSERVATIONS just by watching.”

            This simple transition from the verb form to the noun form informs us of a basic truth about human perception. If we allow ourselves to observe the multiplicity of human motivations, intents, and actions, we may be better able to recognize those intervening *variables* that both affect and effect human intercourse.
            When we approach the world with a pre-ordained rigid phenomenological bias / structure, we are far more apt to ignore, miss or otherwise confuse both the action, intents and causes of “civic” interaction. We instead impose upon history / reality an artificial patina, because that is really all it is, a patina overlaying the bedrock reality of real human motivation, that distorts and impoverishes our ability to perceive and make sense of human intercourse.

            As you profess to prefer science, let me phrase it this: Such a mindset blinds us to all of the intervening variables that may (or may not) affect our empirical observations. This is no way to conduct science – or political philosophy, for that matter.

            As for some commenters failing to engage with you because of a) your views or b) meanness?, let me say this:

            Nobody.really and I go at it quite frequently. Yet, nobody and I engage on a level that is willing to take into account the variable perceptions of the other. For my part, I THOROUGHLY enjoy and respect nobody.really’s comments / opinions and contributions. In short, nobody. really takes to heart Yogi Berra’s admonition to both watch and observe.

            Perhaps, you may want to give it a try!

          • says

            gabe,

            You are about as clueless as they come. My use of “civic” does not equate to “civil.” However, thanks to your arrogance, I will add “civil” to my distinctions.

            Your arrogance comes out again when you saddle me with focus on “science,” after I boast that my recognition that physics–energy, mass and space-time from which everything emerges–makes Einstein’s otherwise lame literature on science and religion powerful.

            What you refer to a “meanness” by me is fear of the validity of my statements. I say, overcome your fear, gabe, and collaborate for personal liberty. You can start by addressing my statements instead of the distortions you fabricate. It is a difficult process for some, easy for others.

            You’d do your self a favor by recognizing that ivory-tower claims cut no ice with someone who imagines civic morality. I am grateful to this forum and you, gabe, for the qualification to write that statement.

          • says

            z, It’s hard to fathom my gratitude for your thoughtful response. Let me give you two illustrations of how collaboration must start with physics rather than scholarly opinion, such as Blackstone or Burke or Paine or Ingersoll or Lincoln, etc. One short and the other is detailed, but I hope you will consider both of them with respect to my definition of civic morality, which I can neither dictate nor defend from religion. It must come from brutal debate such as you kindly offer. First, there’s slavery and second the physics of abortion.

            Slavery has persisted throughout human history. The Bible takes for granted and instructs the master-slave relationship. However, physics always held that a master cannot own the fruits of another’s labor without chains and brutality—arrogant force. For about three decades, mitochondrial DNA has informed humankind that everyone alive is kin. Just kin do all they can for each other. Yet common-law justification for class supremacy is active today; for example, the elite opine that they inherited the right to a higher proportion of gross national product. And then, there’s black liberation theology, a Marxist backlash against “white christianity.” The era of opinion-based dominance must be put to rest in favor of physics-based ethics.

            A second example, abortion due to physics, involves a human infant’s total dependency, family appreciation; conception; gestation and delivery; and child-care by the parents. Conception begins when a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s ovum. Unlike some animal newborns, a human infant cannot survive independently, so, on delivery, the mother must be attentive to the baby—continue the attachment begun in the womb. Therefore, until the baby starts to establish personal autonomy, the mother needs the man’s support. When the baby emerges as a conceiving adult, the support of his or her mother and father is essential to the grandchildren. Thus, a couple who have not the family appreciation to support personal posterity should not conceive.

            Even when the couple involve their conception in family appreciation, abortion may occur. The fertilized ovum is a single cell that divides and continues to divide to form a fetus that the woman gestates over a period of nine months. Many steps are involved, and the emergences form physics—chemistry, biology, psychology, and arrogant force—can cause termination of the pregnancy, usually for biological cause, such as chromosomal disorder. The ultimate natural cause for termination is the woman’s decision that she does not want to remain pregnant. Physics has assigned the woman the dreadful responsibility to terminate her pregnancy. Perhaps the child was conceived during rape by her “lawful” husband rather than during love-making, and she knows a child will be abused or murdered. The reason for her decision is not a civic issue, because the power to terminate cannot be denied or reversed—cannot be taken from her except by force. Also, her personal autonomy requires collaborative autonomy with her fetus. It is possible to force her into desperate measures, but her power to terminate pregnancy remains. With these considerations, a civic people’s first principle respecting abortion is to appreciate a woman’s privacy in her decision. Religion has no standing in the issue.

            In a corollary principle, a civic people hold the love-making man responsible for caring for both the woman’s potential for pregnancy and the ovum’s susceptibility to conception. In other words, a civic man does not carelessly satisfy sexual appetites and leave the woman and her ova with the risks or consequences.
            Deviations from these principles are the civic responsibilities of the couple, yet a civic people are responsible for education of children and adolescents and to support the child if the couple defaults. Notice that religious doctrine, a matter of opinion, has no standing in these principles. The idea that a god may be in control of everything does not authorize humans to attempt to reverse physics. Humans should not attempt to reverse the woman’s decision to abort and should focus their protection of ova and fetuses on education of adolescents and adults in both human reproduction and formation of civic relationships. There are other erroneous examples of opinion-based ideas respecting reproduction. For example, someone could opine that every viable ovum should be preserved at all cost, yet periodic ova disposal from the fertile woman’s body evolved from physics. Such a suggestion respecting semen seems expressed in the Bible.

            z, by no means do I purport these, my suggestions for civic collaboration as the objective truth. Nor are my expressions perfect. As I read, I see flaws, but correcting them would not improve the chance to collaborate. In fact, I would be perfectly happy to hear from you, “Phil, let’s scrap your erroneous beginning and start with a first argument by z.” I would be delighted, no matter what your start might be. My goal would be to respond with fidelity to the civic collaboration, knowing that my religious ideas are not pertinent to the civic discussion.

            Fidelity to our mutual commitment to communicate for civic value rather than opinion-based dominance is the key, and beginning with an explicit understanding of the physics involved offers the bedrock for civic morality.

          • gabe says

            Phil:

            This is the last comment I shall make:

            You prove my point about applying a patina to perception.

            My reference to “meanness” was not directed at you – that is to say, I was not ascribing meanness to you but rather was remarking upon claims that you have made in the past in which you alleged that in others. Your inability to get beyond your own epistemology, your own peculiar worldview, compels you to miss the meaning in what others say or write. You force the world into your particular “singularity” – and in so doing exhibit a willful blindness to the valid arguments of others. Moreover, this attitude so afflicts your epistemology that you are unable to differentiate between helpful advice and derision. consequently, you feel free to deride others; this convinces me that it is futile to attempt to engage with you.
            In all sincerity, try taking Z’s advice (and others). As it is, you make this experience at LLB rather unpleasant – especially for the infrequent or new visitor.
            If you can not do this, please pack up your pulpit and go preach to your own choir wherever it may be.
            The rest of us DO like to engage with each other and feel that we do benefit from our mutual attempts to espouse / understand and apprehend other “variables” or determinants as Z says.

            Now off to something far more pleasant than discoursing with you – a dental implant!!!!

          • says

            gabe, when you get there, be sure to tell him you want to send him to Coventry. He’d probably have fun learning what it means if he has that ignorance, as I did when you came along.

            But, he may not have the patience with you to let you express it explicitly, as I did. You are welcome back anytime.

            If so, perhaps we’ll find a way to collaborate for the literal preamble to the draft constitution for the USA, about the only idea left unscathed since September 17, 1787, ignoring the neglect by the people.

  3. R Richard Schweitzer says

    Should Law Schools Pursue “Social Justice”?

    What is intended here by “pursue?”

    “What is **Social**? – What Does It Mean” (Chapter 17 “Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics” by F. A. Hayek; Routledge 1967 &1978)

    “The Mirage of Social Justice” (Vol. 2 of “Law, Legislation & Liberty” by F.A. Hayek [Routledge 1976 & 1982])

    Should Law Schools “pursue” — Justice?

    Do the Schools exist for the function of learning? Is the learning for the function of “pursuit” or is the function of the Schools for the “pursuit” itself?
    Is the function of learning to find the meaning (and role) of justice in the social order; or is it to be learning to establish a role and concept of “Justice” in forming a “desired” social order?

    If, plausibly, justice is the performance of obligations, is the pursuit to be of the social means of performance; or to be of the social nature (or assignment) of the obligations?

    The questions posed by Hayek, and those posed above might be more fruitful pursuits for learning (even in Law Schools) than the pursuit of an amorphous concept.

    • says

      Mr. Schweitzer,

      I would commend “civic justice” over “social justice,” noting the distinction plus one. “Civic” refers to the ineluctable connections persons have because they collaborate for life during the same years on the same land and differs from either “public,” which refers to all inhabitants including criminals, or “social,” which refers to association by preference or class. (from an earlier post)

  4. R Richard Schweitzer says

    The pursuit of “Innocence Projects” as part of the learning process are differentiated from “Social Justice Projects,” by the nature of their objectives.

  5. says

    I think most clinics represent poor people, because poor people who can’t pay are the ones willing to have law students be their ‘lawyers’ in the first place.

    Certainly social activism is behind some of the causes these clinics take up, but largely its about finding clients who would agree to have unlicensed practitioners be their advocates.

  6. R Richard Schweitzer says

    From the brief descriptions in the article, Social Justice Projects (“Clinics”) appear as further training in the use of the legal system as a means to ends; labeled as “social” ends (or objectives).

    To continue to “pursue” such training as a goal of Law Schools, will continue to pervert the legal system and those who function in it.

    • says

      Clinics are vehicles for law students do actual legal work. It’s not a dirty word. At my school there is a clinic to help inventors get IP protections, recent entrepreneurs navigate the legal world, and assist those who have lost property in a civil forfeiture

      • R Richard Schweitzer says

        “Clinics” as a method of learning (by participating) do not seem to be the issue of the article. “Clinics” for the “pursuit” of creating and assigning obligations (and their enforcement) for social (& Political??) objectives, garbed a “Social Justice,” using the legal system as a means for those ends does seem to be an issue of the article.

    • R Richard Schweitzer says

      May I suggest that what we observe in the linked materials is the learning of actual PROCESS in the legal system; not an activity of learning to use that process as means for a social or political end.

  7. Eric Rasmusen says

    The post has a great idea. It also is another way to test the biases of law schools: measure the amount of liberal clinic work against the amount of conservative clinic work. Neutral work (e.g. patent help) might enter into the ratio too. The result, of course, would show that law schools *as institutions* (not just proportion of faculty) are overwhelmingly leftwing. It isn’t just the faculty’s views: it is where the power in the law school to allocate resources lies.

    For giving practical training, a diversity of work is presumably good– both criminal defense and criminal prosecution, helping tenants and helping landlords, fighting against death penalties and fighting for them. To the extent that the law school’s support is imbalanced, that displays political bias which is hurting the students’ education.

    Law is peculiarly able to display political bias this way, because for every case there are two sides; one can’t say there are more opportunities for plaintiffs than for defendants.

    Supporters of the clinics will reply that the clinics serve the poor, but that is to bring in an objective separate from education: charity. Defending criminals and undesirable tenants, however, hurts the criminal victims and the tenants’ neighbors, at a minimum.

    • R Richard Schweitzer says

      @ E R:

      You note a salient point in the determinations of legal study and of the function(s) of Law Schools.

      Historically, we observed an “adversarial” system in the of application of Law to social order and to the relationships within it. We are now observing use of the legal system in quests for particular concepts of social orders and for determinations of relationships to sustain them, conducted by applications of Rules of Policy.

      Those adversarial positions are now in the concepts of the nature and objectives of the social order and of the relationships necessary to them.

      • says

        This dialogue–between R.S and E.R. prompts the revision of my usage inspired today by the departed gabe.

        “Civic” refers to the ineluctable connections each person has because he or she collaborates during his or her life during the same years within shared geopolitical limits, rather than any of “public,” which refers to all inhabitants including criminals and such, or “social” which refers to association by preference or class, or “civil,” which refers to the collaborative monopoly on force.

        For 2500 years, the thinkers who favor personal liberty with civic well-being have used these four terms without explicit definition, especially the term “social,” leaving readers in a quandary. People in this forum have the opportunity to improve on this definition. I humbly ask them to do so.

        I do not yield my gratitude for what the forum has taught me so far, and that includes gabe and others, whom I’d be glad to meet at Coventry or in my home town, Baton Rouge.

  8. Mark Osler says

    I don’t know anything about landlord/tenant clinics (or that area of law), but I do know something about the clinics in my own field, criminal law. Many, if not most, of the clinics in this area represent individuals against what is often an overbearing government action. That is fundamentally a conservative enterprise. A clinic at your own school, the Center on Wrongful Convictions (derided above as liberal) is premised on a conservative fundamental: That government bureaucracies too often make mincemeat of individual rights and liberties. And what would the counterpart clinic be, as you suggest? A Center FOR Wrongful Convictions?

    My own school has a mix of clinics, which includes a religious liberty clinic and a prosecution clinic. However, it is hard to characterize any of them as clearly “liberal” or “conservative.” One, for example, assists federal prisoners in pursuing Section 1983 actions against the government. This, at some level, might be seen as bleeding-heart liberalism. Just don’t tell that to Greg Sisk, the conservative Reagan-administration veteran who runs it, and does so with feet firmly planted in conservative ideals that begin with a refusal to accept “trust us– we’re the government.”

    • Eric Rasmusen says

      Hello, Mark.
      I completely agree with you that there’s a lot of evil prosecutor behavior that we need to fight against. I wrote an Indiana Supreme Court brief myself for one such case, where a man pushed police for illegally entering his home and was then tasered and prosecuted for assault, in defiance of a recent Indiana statute. But it’s also true that county prosecutors’ offices are always understaffed and have to drop or plead out respectable cases. Why not help them too?

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