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December 10, 2008

Update on the Tel Aviv Clinic Situation

A story from Haaretz.  More news likely tomorrow or even later today (I believe the law faculty has already met on this issue, and the Dean and faculty are expected to authorize the clinic to go forward with the planned representation of the workers at the Weizmann Institute of Science).

Various letters have been sent to the Rector and President of Tel Aviv University.  Here is the full text of the letter from Mark Gergen (Berkeley) to the Rector referenced in the Haaretz story:

I understand from a report by Professor Harel posted on Professor Leiter's website that you have intervened to prevent a legal aid clinic at Tel Aviv University from representing workers at the Weizmann Institute of Science.  If the report is correct, then I urge you to reverse the decision and to permit and encourage the clinic to renew the representation, acknowledging your mistake.


I consider myself a friend of the Buchmann Faculty of Law .  I have sponsored or seconded three members of the faculty to be members of the American Law Institute.  I consider it to be an excellent law school with an extraordinarily strong faculty.


Your action will undermine the reputation of the law school and of Tel Aviv University.  It is vitally important that universities not interfere with clinical decisions regarding what clients to represent or how to represent a client.  This is on a par with interfering with the research or teaching of a faculty member.  It is not unusual for clinics at public universities to take positions adverse to the university or even to the state.  Indeed, by definition criminal justice clinics oppose the state as part of their basic mission.  If restrictions are to be placed on what matters a clinic may undertake, then this should be done in advance by rule after consultation with the law school dean and faculty.


Thank you for considering this message.

Stephen Wizner (Yale) has invited me to share his "open letter" to the University President, Zvi Galil:

Dear Professor Galil:


I write to express my deep concern about reports of coercive efforts by the administration of Tel Aviv University to compel the law clinic of the Faculty of Law to terminate its legal representation of low wage workers at the Weizmann Institute and the Open University in their efforts to organize a union and bargain collectively over wages and working conditions.  The workers have a legal right to organize, and the Law Faculty's clinical instructors and students were already representing them by providing legal counsel and advocacy.


The reported interference by the administration in the attorney-client relationship between the clinic and its clients, and in the educational program provided by the clinic instructors, had the clear intent of causing the supervising attorneys and law students to violate their professional ethical duties to clients by terminating their representation, and of denying to the clinic instructors their academic freedom to select clients and cases designed to teach not only how to practice law, but, perhaps more important, how law can be an instrument for the pursuit of social justice.  If these reports are accurate, the actions of the administration are inexcusable and a violation  of the values for which a university should stand.


I applaud the reported stance of the Dean of the Law Faculty, Professor Hanoch Dagan, in supporting the professional and educational independence of the clinic faculty even as he faces the threat of being removed as Dean.  I urge you to join Professor Dagan in affirming the right of the clinic to decide the clients it will represent and the lessons it will teach.



Stephen Wizner

William O. Douglas Clinical Professor

Yale Law School

Professor Wizner also posted this letter on a listserve for clinical professors, and it has generated a flood of additional letters to the University President.


FINAL UPDATE (1:20 PM CST Dec. 10):  Professor Wizner writes with good news:

The President of Tel Aviv University has approved the continued representation of workers at the Weizmann Institute and the Open University by the Tel Aviv clinic, and directed that the clinic issue be removed from the agenda of the Faculty Senate meeting currently in progress.  Congratulations to the clinic staff and students, and to Dean Hanoch Dagan for his brave and principled stand in defense of academic freedom.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 10, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

December 9, 2008

Illinois Governor Arrested in Corruption Scandal

I suppose everyone knows about this.  As I said to some colleagues and students who were gathered around the TV in the lounge watching news reports this morning, "Why can't Illinois have a normal governor who merely patronizes prostitutes?"

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 9, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

New Bailout Plan for Citigroup: Somali Pirates to Acquire the Bank

Details here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 9, 2008 in Legal Humor | Permalink | TrackBack

December 7, 2008

Attack on Academic Freedom at Tel Aviv University

The distinguihsed legal scholar Alon Harel, who holds a Chair at the Hebrew University of Jersualem and has also taught at many U.S. law schools (including Columbia and Texas), writes:

The Faculty of law at the University of Tel Aviv has suffered greatly in recent weeks. Regrettably, the Provost of the University of Tel Aviv Professor Dany Leviatan decided to interfere with the basic academic freedoms of the clinics at the university of Tel Aviv and has rendered decisions which violate the autonomy of the Faculty.  

The faculty of law at the University of Tel Aviv operates six live-client legal clinics. The clinics at the University of Tel Aviv have been involved in numerous important legal cases, among others in the following areas: criminal justice, environmental justice, health, education and welfare rights, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and others. The clinics have won many important legal victories, including the rights of the mentally ill to legal representation and the right of prisoners to sleep on beds.

The clinics in all law schools (Israel and worldwide) enjoy broad autonomy. The directors of the clinics make decisions on the basis of legal as well as pedagogic considerations.

On the basis of these considerations the directors of one of the clinics at TAU decided to represent workers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in their struggle to establish a union – a basic right recognized under Israeli labor law.  For unknown reasons the Provost at the University of Tel Aviv Professor Dany Leviatan decided to block the representation of the workers and instructed the clinic to cease representation. To the best of my knowledge this is the first and the only time in the history of clinics in Israel that such an order is given by the provost. In addition to the resentment triggered by this move on the part of the lawyers in the clinic, this precedent may affect the autonomy of the clinics in the future.


The information I have indicates that Professor Leviatan threatened both senior and junior workers at the University of Tel Aviv.

To the credit of the faculty and its dean, Professor Hanoch Dagan, I shall add that professor Dagan and other members of the faculty did their best to defend the autonomy of the clinics. At the end however the clinic itself decided that it cannot under the circumstances continue representing the workers and transferred representation to an external lawyer. A notification on the site of the clinic indicates subtly the reasons for their decision. The notification can be found in

http://www.law.tau.ac.il/Heb/?CategoryID=499 (scroll down for the English version)


I personally asked professor Leviatan to clarify the reasons for his decision. His unpleasant reaction was that he is not looking for preachers. I have to add that Professor Leviatan has tried in the past to cancel a conference on administrative detention. His record on issues of academic freedom has been less than what one would hope for.



I urge anybody who cares about academic freedoms to write to professor Leviatan (and please cc: me;[Alon Harel at msalon@mscc.huji.ac.il]) and urge him to honor the autonomy of the clinics.  

UPDATE:  More on the case here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 7, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

December 4, 2008

How Much Does It Cost to Name a Law School?

$35 million in the case of Indiana University, Bloomington, the school's second enormous gift in the last year!

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 4, 2008 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

December 3, 2008

NYU's New Grading Curve

Grade inflation, but NYU didn't go off the Yale/Harvard "no grades" cliff:

As you may know, after lengthy deliberation the faculty recently approved a new grading curve, effective immediately.  All fall 2008 classes (including early seven week classes) will be graded using this curve.  The new curve includes a number of innovations, including the introduction of an A+ grade.  We believe that the new curve will more accurately represent the achievements of our students to the outside world.

Here it is:

Mandatory First Year Curve                                                                   

A+: 0-2% (target = 1%)
A: 7-13% (target = 10%)
A-: 16-24% (target = 20%)
Maximum for A tier = 31%
B+: 22-30% (target = 26%)
Maximum grades above B = 57%
B: remainder
B-: 4-8% (target = 6%)
C/D/F: 0-5%

Advisory Upper Level  Curve, for classes with 28 or more students

A+: 0-2% (target = 1%) (mandatory cap*)                       
A: 7-13% (target = 10%)                                                
A-:16-24% (target = 20%)                                              
Maximum for A tier = 31%
B+: 22-30% (target = 26%)                                             
Maximum grades above B = 57%
B: remainder                                                                  
B-:4-11% (target 7-8%)
C/D/F: 0-5%  

* The cap on the A+ grade is mandatory for all classes, even those with fewer than 28 students.  However, at least one A+ can be awarded in every class in the law school. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 3, 2008 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

College Becoming Unaffordable for Most in the U.S.

The article does not discuss the implications for legal education, but one can draw the obvious conclusions.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 3, 2008 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

December 1, 2008

ABA Journal 2nd Annual List of "Top 100" Blawgs

I do appreciate that the ABA Journal has listed this blog two years in a row among its 'top 100' law-related blogs, especially since the ABA Journal link directs a decent amount of traffic here.   I am always amazed at how many of the blawgs on their list I've never heard of, and perhaps just a tad dismayed at how bad some of the blawgs are that they do list--but to each his own!  If it weren't a slow news day, I wouldn't even post this notice, but, alas, no real news today! 

In any case, my thanks to the ABA Journal for the continued link and exposure.

UPDATE:   I guess if I thought any of this mattered, I would do this.  But I don't.  So don't bother.  Just keep reading.  Thanks.

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 1, 2008 in Navel-Gazing | Permalink | TrackBack