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The Failure of Crits and Leftist Law Professors to Defend Progressive Causes

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Brian Z. Tamanhana of Washington U., St. Louis Law School has this article with the above title on SSRN.  He charges his fellow lefty law professors with hypocrisy and is well aware he will lose some friends.  Here is the abstract:

Future generations will look back at the first decade of the twenty-first century as a pivotal time when a huge economic barrier was erected to encumber the path to a legal career. The symbolic announcement of this barrier rang out when annual tuition crossed the $50,000 threshold, now exceeded at a dozen or so law schools. Including fees and living expenses, it costs well in excess of $200,000 to obtain a law degree at most of the nation's highly regarded law schools and at a number of non-elite ones as well. Law schools thus impose a formidable entry fee on anyone who wishes to follow what, until recently, has long served as a means of upward mobility and access to power in American society.
The pricing structure of legal education has profound class implications. High tuition will inhibit people from middle-class and poor families more than it will deter the offspring of the rich with ample resources. Law school scholarship policies, for reasons I will explain, in effect channel students with financial means to higher ranked law schools, reaping better opportunities, while sending students without money to lower law schools. A growing proportion of elite legal positions will be held by people from wealthy backgrounds as a result. For students who rely on borrowing to finance their legal education, the heavy debt they carry will dictate the types of jobs they seek and constrain the career they go on to have.

Liberal law professors often express concerns about class in American society -- championing access to the legal profession and the provision of legal services for underserved communities. Yet as law school tuition rose to its current extraordinary heights, progressive law professors did nothing to resist it. This Article explores what happened and why.

This is offered in the spirit of critical legal studies -- as a critical self-examination of the failure of leftist law professors. The Crits were highly critical of complacent liberal academics of their day, arguing that they had a hand in perpetuating an unjust legal system; here I charge liberal legal academia -- including the Crits -- with perpetuating the profoundly warped and harmful economics of legal education. What follows will offend many of my fellow liberals. It may even lose me some friends. Liberal law professors must see past their anger to reflect on whether there is a core truth to my arguments, to take personal responsibility for what has happened, and to engage in collective action to do something to alter the economics of our operation. If not, the current economic barrier to a legal career may become permanent.

Of course, conservatives are concerned with upward mobility as well, probably as much so as liberals overall.  Rush Limbaugh talks about it regularly.  But the liberals' view of themselves, not the reality, is what is at issue here.

Tamanhana has already ruffled feathers with his earlier book.  One reviewer called him the dirtiest word in the lefty lexicon.  He was accused of being a (gasp! horrors!) conservative.

Jacob Gershman has this post at WSJ Law Blog.

Looking back, I am fortunate that I attended law school (albeit not an elite one) at a time when the GI Bill covered the whole tuition.  With no family money, it was the only way I could have gone.

2 Comments

As a person who went to an expensive private law school (and by no means an elite one) in order to go into public service as a prosecutor (and I'm still paying off my student loan debt), I applaud this professor for telling it like it is. Good for him.

"Liberal law professors must see past their anger to reflect on whether there is a core truth to my arguments, to take personal responsibility for what has happened, and to engage in collective action."
... ... ... Slick ideology, i.e. liberalism/relativism ... ... ...

1. "What is truth?" --Pilate, Jn 8:28
2. "[I]n light of our evolving standards of decency" --J.P. Stevens, 536 U.S. 304
3. "[M]y own sense of fairness - completely subjective"--LizMcD
* * *
* * *
1.--"I am innocent of the blood...see ye to it,"...and when he had
scouraged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified--Pontius Pilate, Mat 27:24

2.--“"I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion
that the imposition of the death penalty" is unconstitutional.“ --J.P. Stevens, 217 S. W. 3d 207

3.--""I don't see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as evil. But, I don't see the older brother as evil either." --Liz McD, 4/29-5/1/13, sentencing law & policy.com

~Adamakis

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