Out: Lawyers are to be commended for defending unpopular clients. In, at least at Harvard: Blame lawyers for their clients! After protests from students over their representation of Harvey Weinstein, Harvard punished two faculty deans by removing them from their posts:
A lawyer who was set to defend Harvey Weinstein in his upcoming rape trial has been dropped as a faculty dean at Harvard Law School.
Ronald Sullivan Jr., a veteran professor of law at the Ivy League school, will not be returning as faculty dean when his term runs out June 30, according to an emailed letter to students Saturday from Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College. In the letter, Khurana cited student opposition to Sullivan’s defense of the disgraced Hollywood producer.
“Over the last few weeks, students and staff have continued to communicate concerns about the climate in Winthrop House to the college,” Khurana wrote. “The concerns expressed have been serious and numerous. … I have concluded that the situation … is untenable.”
Sullivan’s wife Stephanie Robinson is also being released from her duties as faculty dean at the end of June. The couple were the school’s first African-Americans to hold that position.
The kicker? Sullivan had already withdrawn from Weinstein’s team:
Ironically, Harvard’s decision comes just a day after Sullivan told the Manhattan judge overseeing Weinstein’s case that Sullivan would, in fact, be leaving the defense team.
Sullivan’s notice to the court is due to be made public Monday.
Weinstein spokesman Juda Engelmayer told ABC News Saturday evening that Weinstein “is extremely grateful to Ronald Sullivan for his work with him until now, and for Ron’s offer to advise where he can going forward.”
“Mr. Sullivan believed that Mr. Weinstein deserved a vigorous defense, and it is a sad moment for us all right now,” Engelmayer said. “We, as a country, have now reached the point when a Harvard lawyer and professor cannot serve his duty to, and belief in, the law and defend a person who may be deemed unpopular or unworthy of a legal defense by segments of the public.”
That’s exactly correct, even if it comes from Weinstein’s defense team. And what’s more, we are usually lectured ad infinitum about that principle when it comes to other attorneys … especially those who go into politics. One would expect an institution like Harvard Law School to grasp this concept and defend it. Instead, as Robby Soave writes at Reason, Harvard caved to the mob:
Danu Mudannayake, one the students leading the campaign to remove Sullivan, described the professor’s representation of Weinstein as “not only upsetting, but deeply trauma-inducing” and evidence that he “does not value the safety of students he lives within Winthrop House.” According to Mudannayake and her fellow radicals, Sullivan has made Harvard an unsafe and hostile educational environment.
These are absurd accusations, and Khurana foolishly gave credence to them when he agreed to investigate Sullivan a few weeks ago. This was bad enough, but the results of that investigation are worse: Sullivan and Robinson are out. …
This is a disaster. The administration has endorsed the ridiculous notion that serving as legal counsel for a person accused of sexual misconduct is itself a form of sexual misconduct, or at the very least contributes to sexual harassment on campus. It is no exaggeration to say that Khurana has undermined one of the most important principles of modern, enlightened justice. He should be ashamed of himself.
By caving to the mob, Harvard has shown student-activists that it takes seriously their demands for a kind of broadly-defined safety that includes protection from ideas they don’t like. This outcome will undoubtedly embolden them.
You’d better believe it. Appeasement doesn’t work with dictators, and it doesn’t work with mobs. Harvard has now set a precedent for valuing “climate” over principles, and momentary peace over due process and constitutional protections. They even chose the mob over identity politics, which really speaks volumes about their pusillanimity. Harvard isn’t educating adults; they’re providing a day care center for children run by cowards.
Every defendant deserves representation in court. The act of defending a client does not make a lawyer complicit in his or her crimes. If Harvard can’t figure that much out, it should close its law school and leave that education to others more intellectually and intestinally fortified to provide it.
Update: I corrected the headline — the position is faculty dean, not law faculty dean. I apologize for the error.