« Allah and the Taliban at Yale | Main | Interesting, From Amazon »

Roundup of Posts on Olati Johnson

Surprisingly, there's still some posting going on regarding an New York Sun editorial attacking Columbia's hiring of Olati Johnson. (My post on the subject is here .) For those keeping track, here's the back and forth:

  • The original New York Sun editorial.
  • An American Thinker post supporting the Sun's view.
  • A De Novo post by Columbia-blogger PG arguing that allegations of Lee Bollinger's influence are untenable.
  • Dean Schizer responds to the New York Sun (via The Right Coast).
  • Professor Bainbridge updates his post with new information from Columbia professor Avery Katz. Katz specifically argues that CFIF could not prove that the memo taken from the Senate Judiciary Committee's server was reflective of "what actually happened in Kennedy's office." That's an intriguing assertion, and one I hadn't heard before. It makes sense as a possibility: a draft taken off a hard drive may never have been printed. [1] (A similar letter from Prof. Katz appears at the Right Coast, along w/ Dean Schizer's letter.)
  • Finally, the author of the original editorial, Curt Levey, responds to critics at the blog of the Committee for Justice. (This blog even got a humble mention, which explains one uptick in my server logs.)

Near as I can tell, that's it. Much like PG, I still find Levey's original allegations unlikely in the extreme, and without further evidence they can pretty much be relegated to the realms of conspiracy theory.

Indeed, if there's any concern over the appointment, I'd think Levey's looking in entirely the wrong place. The one at least somewhat undisputed allegation [2] to come out of Memogate involved Ms. Johnson forwarding an email misdirected from a Republican staffer to Democratic colleagues. As I mentioned at the time, I'd not think such a thing was illegal under the CFAA (though that statute is notoriously broad-reaching), and quite probably it doesn't constitute an ethical breach. Yet let's face it: capitalizing on an opponent's error in a highly partisan environment may be legal, ethical and even expected, but it doesn't pass the "do unto others" test. Were I a 1L again and assigned to Prof. Johnson's class--and a grade very important to law review, jobs and my future thus sat in her hands--would I feel comfortable, particularly were I a more outspoken conservative? I don't know. [3]

That, however, is a relatively minor concern. Indeed, if you want to mark such worries down as grade paranoia in a law student, you must realize that it's not half so off the ranch as Levey's original contention: that any offer from Columbia is inevitably tainted by Lee Bollinger, and that the faculty is inherently conflicted by his presence. [4] There's is no evidence the university president was involved in the decisionmaking, and reason to suspect he wasn't. Such shenanigans would require the silent and complicit consent of any conservative in the faculty, the staff and even in the student body. I find it close to incredible that if Johnson were appointed for any reason other than her scholarship--by all accounts excellent--Columbia students would hear no gossip, but learn it first in the unbridled speculations of a New York Sun editorialist who provides not a shred of documentation to back up his words. Heck, the Sun can't even drag the reporter's favorite playmate, the 'unnamed source,' out of the shadows!

This kind of "hit piece" in which a reporter rambles about appearances of impropriety and murmurs darkly about possible payoffs does nothing but wound the credibility of the reporter. Maybe Levey's co-blogger John Lott could explain how this is just as true when attacking professors as it is when one targets Justice Scalia?

[1]: Prof. Katz's argument with regards to the state ethics committee seems a bit strained: "In particular, the complaint that CFIF filed in New York state, the jurisdiction where Olati Johnson is licensed to practice law, was summarily dismissed on the merits -- a fact not mentioned in the Sun editorial." For the record, the ethics complaint against Republican Manuel Miranda, the other New York lawyer in Memogate, seems to have been dropped as well. I'm reminded about the humorous/apocryphal advice regarding how to guess on the MPRE: if asked what a lawyer is forbidden to do, never guess the option that seems least or most ethical. Is that really a guideline for what we want in professorial conduct?

[2]: One should take "undisputed" with a grain of salt here. I don't think I remember anything in that confrontation that wasn't disputed to some degree. I'm certain that I don't have all the facts.

[3]: For my liberal readers who find such a thought unthinkably implausible, I invite them to imagine that their 1L Con Law professor was the aforementioned Manuel Miranda. Then again, Prof. John Yoo seems to get along well enough at Berkeley. Well, okay, maybe not, but I can't find any Boalt students blogging about grading concerns.

[4]: Levey writes:

"Moreover, as my op-ed notes, the faculty should have thought about the message it was sending to Columbia's law students concerning ethics and conflicts of interest."

I think the message was right on target. Even assuming the Memogate documents were completely and utterly true in every way, Levey points to nothing that shows President Bollinger had anything to do with them (or even that he knew of them). I'm honestly befuddled at how Levey thinks we're being mislead about conflicts and ethics. I can't see him quoting a canon or a rule.

It's touching that Levey is worried about my education, so let me put him at ease: I do know that we don't get to make up conflicts rules for our convenience as we go along. There endeth the lesson.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

NOTICE TO SPAMMERS, COMMENT ROBOTS, TRACKBACK SPAMMERS AND OTHER NON-HUMAN VISITORS: No comment or trackback left via a robot is ever welcome at Three Years of Hell. Your interference imposes significant costs upon me and my legitimate users. The owner, user or affiliate who advertises using non-human visitors and leaves a comment or trackback on this site therefore agrees to the following: (a) they will pay fifty cents (US$0.50) to Anthony Rickey (hereinafter, the "Host") for every spam trackback or comment processed through any blogs hosted on threeyearsofhell.com, morgrave.com or housevirgo.com, irrespective of whether that comment or trackback is actually posted on the publicly-accessible site, such fees to cover Host's costs of hosting and bandwidth, time in tending to your comment or trackback and costs of enforcement; (b) if such comment or trackback is published on the publicly-accessible site, an additional fee of one dollar (US$1.00) per day per URL included in the comment or trackback for every day the comment or trackback remains publicly available, such fee to represent the value of publicity and search-engine placement advantages.

Giving The Devil His Due

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students

De Novo
Theory and Practice
Liberal Federalism?
Good News, No Foolin'

Nancy Pelosi covers her head and visits the head of John the Baptist.
Vlogging in from Austin.
Omikase/"American Idol"

Jeremy Blachman's Weblog: 2007
Happy Passover
Looking for Advice re: LA
Google Books

Stay of Execution
What I've Learned From This Blog, or My Yellow Underpants
The End
Mid Thirties

Legal Theory Blog
Program Announcement: Summer Programs on the Constitution at George Washington
Book Announement: Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy by Whittington
Entry Level Hiring Report

The Volokh Conspiracy
Making the Daily Show:
Civil unions pass New Hampshire House:
Profile of Yale Law Dean Harold Koh:

Crescat Sententia
Hillary II
Politics and Principal/Agents

Law Dork
Election Approaches
Following Lewis
New Jersey High Court: 'Same Rights and Benefits'

Surveying the revival
Birds of paradise

Half the Sins of Mankind
Cheney Has Spoken Religious conservatives who may ...
Does Ahmadinejad Know Christianity Better Than MSN...
Borders as Genocide In discussions of climate chan...

For lovers of garden gnomes...and any China-freaks out there
We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Does SOX explain the flight from NY?
More Litvak on SOX effect on cross-listed firms
What did the market learn from internal controls reporting?

The Yin Blog
Iowa City = Riyadh
Jeffrey Rosen's "The Supreme Court"
Geek alert -- who would win between Battlestar Galactica and the U.S.S. Enterprise?

Letters of Marque
And there we are

Signing Off

Dark Bilious Vapors
Jim (The Waco Kid): Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.
--"Blazing Saddles"

Technical Difficulties... please stand by....
The Onion should have gotten a patent first....

Legal Ethics Forum
Interesting new Expert DQ case
Decency, Due Care, and The Yoo-Delahunty Memorandum
Thinking About the Fired U.S. Attorneys

Ex Post
Student Symposium- Chicago!
More Hmong - Now at Law School
Good Samaritan Laws: Good For America?

Appellate Law & Practice
Those turned over documents
CA1: courts can’t help people acquitted of crimes purge the taint of acquitted conduct
CA1: restrictions on chain liquor stores in Rhode Island are STILL okay

the imbroglio
High schoolers turn in plagiarism screeners for copyright infringement
Paris to offer 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations to rent by the end of the year

The Republic of T.
The Secret of the Snack Attack
links for 2007-04-04
Where You Link is What You Get

Distractions for stressed law students

The Other Side: Twisted AnimationsSomething Positive, a truly good webcomic

Syndicate This Site



Stop Spam Harvesters, Join Project Honey Pot