Letters to the Editor
A Fact of Life
Posted Jun 1, 2008 8:00 AM CDT
Regarding “The Rankings Czar,” April, I find it oddly curious that so many law schools decry U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings when the same schools apply the brutal logic of rankings to their own students. Indeed, a final class rank follows a student for the rest of his or her legal career.
Rankings are a fact of life—it’s the essence of competition, an assessment of relative quality. That’s why law schools do it to students.
So why shouldn’t U.S. News rank law schools?
Some schools have a more competitive student body, better known faculty, better job placement, better bar passage rates, etc. Applicants make substantial investments in time and money, sometimes borrowing more than $100,000, to purchase a legal education—and the U.S. News rankings help in that weighty decision. There should be more market discipline, not less, in legal education.
The protests of the law schools ring hollow and are utterly self-serving. U.S. News may not be perfect in its methodology, but the rankings are a useful tool.
INCIVILITY HAS NO PLACE
Michael B. Keating’s excellent piece in “Making the Case for Change,” April, is a clarion call. The federal bench is equal to the task. One has only to suffer ill-bred behavior once to understand the need for a judge’s immediate assertion of appropriate authority over barnyard tactics. Sarcastic repartee seems to get a cultural boost from television shows, whose writers delight in creating verbal jousting between lawyers. Much of it has no place in court proceedings.
Well done, Mr. Keating.
Albert C. Oehrle
CAUSE FOR SKEPTICISM
Regarding “Righting Wrongs,” April: As a nonlawyer and non-ABA member, I was shocked to realize the need for the amendments to Model Rule 3.8. The amended rule imposes on prosecutors nothing more than the duty of an ordinary citizen to come forward with evidence in his possession concerning the guilt or innocence of a defendant or prisoner. Without any mandatory or even suggested punishment attached, the amended rule will have little or no effect.
In my recently completed study of 129 exonerated death row inmates, 83 had been railroaded by the criminal justice system. That is, their right to a fair trial was violated. Most of the violations were committed by prosecutors, who never face disciplinary action by state boards or prosecution by the justice system.
If ordinary citizens suppressed evidence, suborned perjury or obstructed justice by destroying exculpatory evidence favorable to the defense, they would face criminal prosecution. However, when prosecutors do the same thing, they are called Brady violations. This clever dodge (endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963) permits a culture of corruption and indifference to human life to flourish in the halls of justice.
It is time for the ABA to take a strong stand against prosecutors who do not obey the law and knowingly assist in the conviction of innocent defendants. In the most egregious cases, prosecutors are guilty of attempted murder, or premeditated murder, if an innocent man is knowingly executed.
It is doubtful that prosecutors will follow the amended rule because it will only help to uncover unethical and perhaps criminal behavior on their part. It is my experience, and the experience of others, that prosecutors fight tooth and nail against reopening closed cases, even when a manifestly innocent man is about to be executed.
Professor of sociology and criminology
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, Mass.
MORE GIFTS TO REPORT
I read with interest “Gifting Grads,” April, which listed 2007’s top five law school benefactors. It was unfortunate that your list was incomplete, missing two of the most significant law school alumni gifts of the year.
In May 2007, Raymond and Kathryn Eckstein gave a record $51 million to Marquette University Law School for the construction of the school’s new facility, which will be named Eckstein Hall.
In addition, in August 2007, Joseph Zilber of the Marquette Law School class of 1941 donated $30 million to the law school, with $25 million going to law student scholarships and $5 million to construction of the new state-of-the-art building.
Brigid O’Brien Miller
Director of University Communication
“Gifting Grads” omitted the two largest gifts ever made to Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law. In January 2007, the university announced that 1966 alumnus Lewis Katz had made a $15 million gift to the law school and that 1963 alumnus H. Laddie Montague Jr. had made a $4 million gift to the law school.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Dickinson School of Law
University Park, Pa.