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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kagan May Not Survive This Angry Mob

Not Tea Partiers, gun nuts, wingnuts, NASCAR dads and moms, or bitter clingers.

Not loony-lefties, nutroots, socialist revolutionaries, or Kos-sacks.

No, there is a gathering crowd with a thirst for revenge, who will not be satisfied unless and until we get on the Supreme Court.... (wait for it) .... diversity of law schools.

Hell hath no fury like a really driven, smart and self-confident college student who was rejected by Harvard Law School and Yale Law School.

Trust me, I know the feeling. I was wait-listed at Yale Law School, and I HATE HATE HATE Yale (note, all caps and repetition signifies that I really mean it). I have a story about how I really didn't want to go to Yale anyway, but I've told it so many times that even I don't believe it anymore.

So this gathering crowd of the Great Disappointed is expressing feelings similar to those written by Jonathan Turley (Northwestern Law School '87):
The favoritism shown Harvard and Yale should be viewed not just as incestuous but as scandalous. It undermines educational institutions across the country by maintaining a clearly arbitrary and capricious basis for selection. It also runs against the grain of a nation based on meritocracy and opportunity.
Incestuous? Scandalous? Arbitrary? Capricious? Hyperbole much?

There are non-lawyers writing such things (Walter Shapiro, James Piereson). There also are Yale Law School grads (Michael Barone '69 and David Bernstein '91) who decry the lack of educational diversity on the High Court; that they feel entitled to make such comments despite their credentials just proves everything I always felt about the smug arrogance of Yale Law grads.

But let me suggest that the problem is not law school credentials, but attitude, as witnessed by the four non-Ivy League law professors who do not even count Clinical Law Professors as people (don't get me started).

Arrogance and class snobbery know no educational boundaries. Fight the attitude, not the degree.

Do not underestimate the power of those who have been nursing their educational wounds for a generation. Their moment may have arrived.

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  1. If you remember, also, then Senator Barrack Obama counseled (no pun intended) GW Bush on the lack of experience (Harriet Meyers) and the need to delve deep into her background as a result. Can you say hypocrisy or even "Ivy League arrogance"! After all Obama too is an Ivy League Law School grad who ran for office with little to no experience (save his self proclaimed "community organizing" experience as enough to qualify for POTUS).......

  2. This all-Yale-and-Harvard-Law complaint strikes me as the least persuasive argument I've seen on any subject in a long time. The Court may be isolated and ivory towerish but if so, it's not because of where the Justices got their law degrees. Actually, politics aside, the backgrounds of the current Justices, plus Kagan, are remarkably downscale. As near as I can tell, nearlty all came from middle class or working class families. I'm pretty sure that except for Roberts and Thomas who attended Catholic schools, all went to public high schools. Scalia grew up in a lower middle class area of Queens and went to Georgetown before entering Harvard Law. Sotomayor came from an even more humble background before getting a scholarship to Princeton. Thomas went to Holy Cross for his BA, Ginsberg to Cornell (and not incidentally, she graduated from Columbia Law although she attended Harvard for a while), Kennedy and Breyer to Stamford.

    Yale and Harvard Law have been widely regarded as the top law schools in the nation for generations, so it's hardly unexpected that their graduates would be disproportionately tapped for such choice early career-path jobs as clerks to Supreme Court Justices, faculty appointments at other law schools (a common element in the bios of many of the current Justices), and judicial appointments early in life.

    What should be more striking is the fact that the Court is entirely composed of people who began life without riches or infuential families or high social positions -- true for Republican and Democratic appointees. Pretty much confirms the meritocratic nature of American society, does it not? It should.

  3. Well, as a YLS alum, let me give the straight sh-t. I won't say there isn't a difference, but it’s a game of inches and not miles, at most. I have never looked down on non-Yalies. But I have sometimes gotten a weird vibe where there is some jealousy and they are very obviously probing to explain how I ended up going there. You get questions like, “did your daddy go there?” and the like. (Actually I am the first Ivy Leaguer in my family, and the first lawyer.) Sometimes I can actively intimidate people, and if its in service of my client, I happily do so. Sometimes they are determined to try to fit me into a mold of “book smart but not life smart.” And I can use that against them, too, by playing a different game from them.

    Of course my life story plays into my views a little myself. It’s a long story, but I have a hidden disability, and in high school the discrimination I faced was so severe that I ended up dropping out. I don’t mean just a failure to accommodate, but active discrimination. The story has a happy ending, obviously. I eventually gave it another go, got my GED, then went to a pretty non-prestigious state school. I mean so unprestigious that they probably never sent someone to Yale Law before. So when I started at Yale, it was one of the most intimidating moments in my life. The weekend before we all did a meet and greet, and everyone was so impressive in their backgrounds. It was similar to that early scene in Legally Blond when they are comparing backgrounds, only unlike in the movie it wasn’t an aggressive thing. They would just casually mention how they went to the best school and did amazing things, like as if they expected everyone to have done something similar—which isn’t too big a leap given that it seemed that everyone but me had done something similar.

    (The movie Legally Blond came out as I was in law school, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that actually about half the class related to that scene and confessed to feeling intimidated that first weekend.)

    But then the first class started, constitutional law. Now in undergrad, I had the benefit of a teacher who gave a few courses on con law, even applying a light Socratic method. So it turned out that I knew the subject so well I think I freaked out my classmates. I had to dial it back a little, let other people answer questions. And for the rest of the courses, I had purchased some tapes designed to give you a head start on basic contracts and the like, plus I had read The Common Law by Holmes. So I was about three steps ahead in those classes. So it taught me that even if you don’t go to the “right school” if you have the intelligence, and you work hard, you can beat anyone in a fair fight.

    So I don’t ever make the mistake of going, “Oh, I am a Yalie, and he went to UConn, it will be easy to beat him.” Which is probably a bad thing if you go against me, because then I won’t cut you any slack at all. ;-)

    And the other thing I take from my story is that, yes, there is real discrimination in our society, including racial, gender-based and all that. But I can also state for a fact that that discrimination can be overcome, if you just don’t lose heart. I don’t say that to blame, but to inspire. As the song goes, “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Even if you are mistreated, don’t let that defeat you. Keep trying, no matter what.

  4. If we are going to go off the deep end about expereince, schooling etc, or the lack of it. Then at least let us default to a survivable position. Lets put an engineer on the Supreme Court. Somebody from MIT, or Carnegie-Melon perhaps.

    Engineers are trained to cut thru the BS to a solution. Deference to our host, Constitutional Law can't be too hard to pick up; Obama passed.

    And yes I am an engineer. :)

  5. @Tucane Services, how do you know that Dr.U passed Constitutional Law? No one has ever seen his results to verify that point.

  6. Being a self-supporting, poor person when I got out of college, I never seriously considered any Ivy League law school (although of course I'm convinced I would have gotten in very easily) and attended a well respected regional school in a very large city out west (LA) which had the best of the evening programs on offer. But I too share a certain disdain for the Yalie/Harvard law grads mostly because in 20 years of practicing I just haven't seen very many who were actually all that impressive. Maybe that's because of my particular specialty which isn't really taught in law school and when my (much better paid) Ivy educated colleagues need help, they're having to ask me. I never have to ask them. Because what they know you can learn anywhere. People who don't know better think the school makes the lawyer. Doesn't work that way. But they do get paid a lot better, on that first job anyway.

  7. "Hell hath no fury like a really driven, smart and self-confident college student who was rejected by Harvard Law School and Yale Law School."

    HA HA HA !!! Thanks! I needed that laff :)

  8. I agree with the engineer. There is such a thing as a lawyer/dr, engineer/lawyer, why not one of them, a cross trained legal athelete?

    I do think that the application of engineering to the law is not that far fetched in the way that most practicing engineers use algebra and trig to solve problems, yet the basis for those formulas where developed by the research engineers and the pages of finite math used have been called "job justification formulas". Supreme Court members are expected to be research quality people with minds that can develop "job justification opinions" that others can use reliably in the future.

    One of the big differences is that when an engineer forgets something or the formula does not account for an unknown factor, the danger is direct and catastrophic (Galloping Gertie). In law, a bad decision can be left for decades, in order to keep the law stable. There are no visuals to a bad law (maybe other than sonograms).

    I am not an engineer, but have worked with them for years. It is a quiet profession.

  9. Everyone seems to have an agenda. Kagan shows no signs of being a consitutional scholar. She is a policy-maker. Policy has been established,and her policy choices include censoring student choices, liberties, and freedom of choice. She thinks for students, and she acts as their conscionable guide, concerning military service and student sentiment on marginal homosexual agendas. If that is not at the least pretentious, arbitrary, and capricious, then what is?
    Furthermore, the USC is in no need of a judicial diluter, or of an external conscience for homing the clear meaning of universal individual liberty and freedom.
    She is nominated to an inappropriate venue for dissemination of her perversely contortioned sense of Rawlianesque social engineering predilections and proclivities.
    Kagan is too equivocal and nihilistic to assume the position of makiung any conrete judgment consistent with her background and momemtum to be other than Obama would wishfully proscribe for her future. Obama is quite presumptive.

    These stealthy Marxist dissemblers at Harvard live in a bubble of their own making. They see through the filmy distortions of their pretentiously contrived insularium- the murky lens of Harvard opacity.

    A little pin prick is in order here. A bursting of the bubble startles the delusional; and the transparency needed is deliverable through a reflective affront of conscience.

    We must show empathy and compassion for liberal illusory plight, and do their heavy lifting for them; since they are incapable of being artfully disposed to concrete decisiveness,liberals do not fall short of wallowing in their own specious group-think fallacies.

    They will thank us later.

    No deal.

    Remember in November, 2010

  10. Wouldee,

    Yes we of the pocket protector set can be sort of droll. But then every once in a while we have this wild side breakout. Like say when the Kingsford charcoal refuses to light -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBLr_XrooLs