Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Whenever there is an opportunity to attack the First Amendment and academic freedom, Paul Campos is there!

Naturally, Professor Campos (of the University of Colorado) weighs in on the John Yoo controversy, taking a straw man version of my views as his target and calling, per his habit, for Professor Yoo to be punished.  I posted the following in the comments, and will just repost it here, since there isn't a lot more to say:

Professor Campos has the dubious distinction of being a professor of constitutional law who called for Ward Churchill to be fired for his views, and long before there was any documentation of research misconduct. He has called for Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee to be punished for his ideas as well. I have written in the past about Campos's disgraceful pattern of contempt for the First Amendment and academic freedom.

Anyone interested in my actual views on the Yoo case might consult what I wrote about it here.

I also recommend the posting by attorney Scott Horton and our exchange of views in the comments section here

I suppose someone as eager as Campos to see others lose their jobs for their foolish and offensive views, or their obvious incompetence, might call for the University of Colorado to initiate an investigation of Paul Campos.  I won't be doing so.  I hope he has a long and productive career as a law professor and legal scholar, and that he can get past his embarrassing predilection to demand that everyone with views he despises (and which he believes are "crimes" etc.) should be fired. 

UPDATE:  One additional comment about the underlying issue, concerning Professor Yoo and an argument that is being bandied about.  There is lots of speculation that maybe what Yoo did (writing the torture memos) constitutes a crime or legal malpractice.  Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't:  it is unclear based on the available facts (though, on both counts, the available facts strongly suggest a negative answer, especially as to malpractice).  It is not for the University of California at Berkeley to investigate crimes or investigate legal malpractice of its faculty, based on speculations that are, quite clearly in most cases, driven by those who find Yoo's views morally odious.  Universities have no competence to carry out such investigations (does anyone think that Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney will come testify before a faculty committee looking into the matter? ), and the mere prospect of such investigations would chill academic work on controversial matters almost totally. 

If an institution actually charged with investigating crimes or legal malpractice--e.g., a prosecutor, a court, a congressional committee, a bar disciplinary committee--were to conduct a proper investigation and issue a finding of misconduct that would surely then be grounds for the university to open a disciplinary proceeding.  But as things stand, there are no such grounds.  With the exception of Mr. Horton and a few others, most of those chattering about "possible" crimes and malpractice soon make it clear that what they really want is for John Yoo to be punished for his ideas and for the fact that some government officials may have acted on those ideas.  That's a standard that vioalates the First Amendment rights of state university faculty and betrays the moral ideal of academic freedom.

ONE MORE:  Paul Campos is obviously upset that every member of the legal academy knows him as the poster boy for contempt for the First Amendment rights of state university professors, and so he does what any reputable academic would do under the circumstances:  lies through his teeth.  He shows up in the comments at one of the links above to make the following declaration:

What an interesting world we live in, where the position of our philosophers is that it's perfectly OK to fire John Yoo for buying four ounces of marijuana, but an outrage against all that decent to fire him for committing war crimes (Brian Leiter, as far as I can tell, doesn't even bother to dispute that Yoo probably is guilty of war crimes. Yet he thinks it would be outrageous for Berkeley to even raise the issue of whether having a war criminal on its law school faculty was appropriate).

Campos has simply made up out of whole cloth the claim that I think Professor Yoo could be fired "for buying four ounces of mairjuana."  Amazing.  I have also expressed, here and above, the view that it is, at best, unclear whether Yoo has committed a war crime, but that I suspect the answer is that he has not.  In any case, the University of California at Berkeley is not a court of law, and until some state agency whose responsibility it is to investigate crimes does so and issues a finding, there is nothing for Berkeley to do, even if Paul Campos has steam coming out of his ears.

UPDATE:  More on John Yoo and academic freedom, in an effort to clarify some issues being suitably confused by Professor Campos and others.

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2008/04/whenever-there.html

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PAUL CAMPOS BECLOWNS HIMSELF YET AGAIN, and Brian Leiter pinches the red rubber nose. And it squeaks! "Paul Campos is obviously upset that every member of the legal academy knows him as the poster boy for contempt for the First... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 17, 2008 5:56:33 PM