Wednesday, 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.

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