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Letters: Ongoing Dr. debate

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Ongoing Dr. debate

David M. Fryson’s article, “Decoding the Legal Doctorate” (August-September, page 18), makes a sweeping generalization regarding doctorates of education that does not accurately portray the field of study. Those who earn a doctorate of education are considered practitioners in education, but I have yet to see an EdD program that lacks a research component through the dissertation process. Some educators chose an EdS path, which for many institutions would be an all-but-dissertation option; however, those who chose the EdS route are not called doctors.

Kailey Hill
Cameron, North Carolina

I wish to wade into the brouhaha over the “doctor” title and tender some historic background, both ancient and recent.

First, the ancient history. The word “doctor” is derived from the Latin verb docere, which means “to teach.” Hence, we find in English such words as docent, docile, doctorate, document, documentary and indoctrinate. An MD, or medical doctor, although traditionally referred to as a “doctor,” should more accurately be described as a physician, as in, “Physician, heal thyself.”

Second, until a scant five decades ago, graduates of American law schools were traditionally awarded an LB degree, a bachelor of laws. That degree had long before crossed the pond from Great Britain, where law degree was in fact a first degree earned after high school. Since our American law degrees are second degrees, awarded after a law student has already earned a bachelor’s degree, it was determined that henceforth, law school graduates would be awarded an advanced degree—a JD, or juris doctor.

For those lawyers who sought an advanced law degree, they could earn an LLM, a master’s degree in law. For the rare legal scholar who wishes to pursue even more advanced study, the degree that can be earned is a JSD, or doctor of juridical science. An LLD, or doctor of laws, is a purely honorary degree customarily bestowed by universities upon esteemed graduation speakers.

Thomas Goetzl
Bellingham, Washington

Musically inclined

Regarding “Rock of Ages,” by Jenny B. Davis (August-September, page 25), the Chicago Bar Association sponsors a symphony orchestra (now in its 38th year), a chorus, a big band and a jazz combo. (I am a founding member, principal trumpet and assistant conductor of the orchestra.) Many great composers studied law and even practiced law: George Frideric Handel, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Emmanuel Chabrier, Hoagy Carmichael and others. Lawyers and musicians have something in common: We both start with a set of rules that we then bend to our own designs.

Michael Poulos
Evanston, Illinois

Native American inclusion

I write to make two points concerning Debra Cassens Weiss’ article, “It’s been more than 10 years since a Black lawyer argued SCOTUS case for US,” about lawyers of color working in the U.S. Solicitor General’s office, (ABAJournal.com, July 25). While I appreciate that your article is based on information from an article in the Washington Post, I am concerned that you didn’t call the paper out—as I will—for failing to mention Native American attorneys. Diversity in the law is about more than Black or Hispanic lawyers.

All too often, organizations fail to include Native American attorneys in their studies, reports and discussions about diversity. But I am particularly concerned that two weeks before the American Bar Association inaugurated a Native American woman as president, you would fail to question the absence of Native Americans in the Post’s article.

I will tell you the answer: There has never been an American Indian/ Native American lawyer employed in the Office of the Solicitor General.

I was the first American Indian lawyer ever hired into the Civil Rights Division, in 1976, and I retired from the Department of Justice in 2008. While the U.S. solicitor general is always invited to participate in any case involving issues of federal Indian law, no American Indian has ever argued one of those cases representing the United States.

That fact brings me to my second point. The Washington Post stopped short of a full review. All of the litigating divisions of the Department of Justice have appellate sections where the lawyers specialize in practice before the circuit courts of appeal. All of those units reflect the same racial and gender makeup that the Post points out about the Office of the Solicitor General. There has never been a Native American lawyer in any appellate section of any litigating division of the United States Department of Justice. Period.

As the senior Native American attorney at the DOJ and the chair of the Native American Trial Lawyers Association of the DOJ for over 30 years, I met personally with every newly appointed attorney general to discuss issues of racial equity and federal Indian law. When Janet Reno became attorney general in 1993, I told her that if she wanted a good picture of the racial and gender equity issues at DOJ, she should survey the appellate sections throughout the department. Even the Civil Rights Division was notorious for having an all-white appellate section, despite having the highest percentage of lawyers of color in any division in the department.

Of the hundred or so federal Indian law cases that the Department of Justice participated in during my 32 years at the department, no American Indian lawyer ever argued one before any appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

I implore you in the future to call it out when one racial group is not included in a story or study about diversity that you are reviewing. And please always be inclusive of Native Americans in your writings about diversity.

Lawrence R. Baca
San Diego

Ethics reveal

As discussed in David L. Hudson’s “What You Don’t Know Might Hurt You” (April-May, page 20), several authorities view Model Rule 1.6, regarding client confidentiality, as requiring client consent for any discussion related to the representation, even discussion of matters of public record. There is, however, a contrary argument based on a key term in the rule—namely the term “reveal.”

The rule provides that “a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation” without client consent. The most common dictionary definition of “reveal” is “to make known something secret or hidden.” Using that definition, discussing a matter of public record would not require client consent—unless one stretches the definition of “secret” to include information in a public record. However, it seems self-evident that information cannot be both “public” and “secret.”

Under the above analysis, a lawyer should be free to make public statements such as “The jury acquitted my client,” or “the jury awarded my client damages in the amount of $500,000.”

David B. Harris
Scotch Plains, New Jersey

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