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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

March 6, 2006 Letter from Charles E. Rice to Dean Bernard Dobranski

This is the text of a letter that was obtained from Prof. Charles E. Rice who authorized its publication.

March 6, 2006

Dean Bernard Dobranski
Ave Maria School of Law
3475 Plymouth Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Dear Bernie:

Last December, the Board of Governors approved the two-term limit, as a result of which I ascended to my current title of Gubernator Ejectus. It has since come to my attention that some members of the AMSL community apparently think that the Governors created an Advisory Board and that I am on it. I am sure you will understand my desire to put to rest any such impression that I have any role in the administration of AMSL.

That misunderstanding may arise from the fact that the Board of Governors, at the September 28, 2005, meeting, recommended that members excluded from the Board by the two-term limit "shall be invited" to serve on an Advisory Board to be created. The by-laws, however, were amended at the telephone meeting on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, to impose the two-term limit and to provide instead that the Board of Governors "may establish" an Advisory Board which "may include" persons who formerly served as Governors.

I understand that no decision has yet been made on the creation of an Advisory Board. If that Board ever does materialize, I request that I not be considered for membership.

Please do not interpret this request as an unfriendly gesture or as a personal criticism of anyone. I owe you, however, a candid expression of the concerns that prompt me to decline membership on the Advisory Board. Those concerns go beyond the fact that the Advisory Board will have no discernible useful function. One reason I do not want my name associated with the administrative structure of AMSL is that I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that AMSL is now governed, in practical effect and not by design, as if it were a sole proprietorship with yourself as the resident agent and with the Board of Governors in a marginal role. I believe that you, Tom Monaghan, and all others involved, are acting in what you and they see as the best interests of AMSL. In major respects, however, the administration of AMSL has been counterproductive. For example, AMSL's prolonged dalliance with the notion of uprooting AMSL and transporting it to Florida has destabilized AMSL and created the perception that the best interests of AMSL are being subordinated, in effect, to another agenda.

AMSL has a record of unprecedented success and I express my appreciation for your contribution to that success. AMSL has an excellent student body, an exemplary faculty, a dedicated and competent staff and an active, loyal alumni. It is a high privilege for me to serve as a Visiting Professor at AMSL. To destabilize AMSL, however, by holding open the prospect of a move to Ave Maria Town is, in my view, indefensibly imprudent. Please understand. I have nothing against Florida in itself. Some of my best friends are Floridians. But the Ave Maria Town venture is a speculative and eccentric medley of the academic, the religious, the municipal and the corporate in which the bottom-line corporate interest will predictably dominate. I would not want anyone to think that I had any share in any decision to involve AMSL with such an enterprise.

One final point. At the September 28, 2005, meeting of the Board of Governors, I reserved the right to make any statements or disclosures necessary, in my judgment, to prevent misapprehension of my own positions and record as a member of the Board of Governors. In light of the various comments made in discussions over the past several months, it is appropriate for me to exercise that right. So please permit me to say that, if an Advisory Board were created and if I were on it, I would offer as advice the enclosed excerpts from the memo I sent to the Board of Governors on November 27, 2002. Please note especially that nearly four years ago, in that memo, I explicitly brought to the attention of yourself, Tom and the Board of Governors the constitutional problems inherent in what Tom presented as his vision of Ave Maria Town, etc., a vision which, in my opinion, is flawed in many respects.

I disagree with the perceptions and judgments of yourself and Tom Monaghan in significant respects. Those disagreements are on issues and they are not personal. I know we all share a common interest in the success of AMSL and a commitment to persevere in prayer to Mary, its patroness, for that intention.

I am not sending this letter to the AMSL list. I will, however, make it available to interested members of the AMSL community.

With appreciation and best wishes,

Charles E. Rice
Professor Emeritus of Law

[N.B. The referenced November 27, 2002 memo will be made available as soon as possible.]