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

Friday, June 06, 2008

Yes, There Are Fools on the Harvard Law Review

Over the last couple of weeks, the legal blogosphere has been buzzing about a horrendous note recently published in the Harvard Law Review (121 Harv. L. Rev. 1886) entitled "Never Again Should a People Starve in a World of Plenty." Above the Law has thoroughly covered the story here and here.

The note (which you can read here) claims to be an investigation of morality and justice when choosing a legal profession. What it is, is complete and utter tripe, a uneducated rambling about poverty and injustice with no legal basis or thoughtful insight, something a highschooler pulling an all-nighter could have thrown together at the last minute for his social studies class. It certainly has no place beside any piece of legal scholarship, much less published in what many consider the most prestigious law review of all, the Harvard Law Review. It is mind-boggling to think that a Harvard Law professor approved this note in his or her capacity as a note advisor and that the Editorial Board and the rest of the Law Review actually published it.

Besides the simplistic moral reasoning (the author clearly needs to take a Charlie Rice jurisprudence class), the note is littered with errors:

-The note's entire theme rests on an elaborate description and analysis of a statue just outside the Harvard Law Review offices. The author claims that the statue is a poor woman and child reaching for a wealthy man, an "intergenerational depiction of inequality." Incredibly, neither the author nor any Law Review cite-checker apparently bothered to wander outside to take a look at the statue. If they had done so, they would have seen that the statue in no way depicts what the author says it depicts.

-The author rehashes arguments made by Peter Unger in his book Living High and Letting Die, even to the point of using the same hypotheticals and the same bizarre plea to send a check to UNICEF.

-The author misleads the reader as to the salary of a public defender, citing a figure for those with six years of experience as opposed to those straight out of law school.

The note's author allegedly responded to criticism by starting his own blog, though the authenticity of the blog has not been confirmed. If the blog is authentic, the author displays even more hypocrisy and cluelessness in his responses to criticism.

My lasting impression after reading the note is that the author is quite unintelligent, and I say this after evaluating the note in as objective a manner as possible. The author makes logical fallacies, fails to raise important distinctions, and displays a lack of intellectual ability in making sound arguments and recognizing important subtleties. I just don't think the author is very smart. I guess he must be smart enough to get through law school and even do well on exams because he is on Law Review, but based on his note, he is not very intelligent. I would bet that dozens of students [update: and former students] at Ave Maria are more intelligent than this author.

The identity of the anonymous author has been revealed by the blogs and various commenters. He is a current student of Harvard Law School, is on the Law Review, and it appears that after law school, he has a prestigious clerkship with Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals, the same conservative jurist who has visited Ave Maria School of Law and is presumably supportive of Ave Maria and its graduates.

This is very disappointing to me. Judge Brown has never hired an Ave Maria graduate as a clerk, and yet here, she has hired a Harvard law student who is demonstrably more stupid than dozens of other Ave Maria students and alumni. Maybe Judge Brown was blinded by the fact that he went to Harvard Law. Perhaps Judge Brown will realize that law school ranking doesn't always correspond to intelligence and legal proficiency. Hopefully Judge Brown will find the courage to consider well-qualified candidates from schools like Ave Maria, as opposed to automatically settling for unintelligent students from so-called "top" law schools.