Tur­moil rocks Yale Law amid hear­ings

Greenwich Time (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mary E. O'Leary

NEW HAVEN — In a book on the his­tory of the Yale Law School, one scholar de­tailed the tur­moil at that in­sti­tu­tion start­ing in the late 1960s that ul­ti­mately set a new di­rec­tion there for sev­eral decades to


Now, there is tur­moil again at the pres­tigous school around the nom­i­na­tion of Judge Brett Ka­vanaugh to the Supreme

Court, which is play­ing out very pub­licly and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

More than 100 stu­dents and alumni in early July ac­cused the law school ad­min­is­tra­tion of be­ing more con­cerned about its “prox­im­ity to power and pres­tige” than about what the judge’s past Ap­pel­late Court rul­ings will mean to the di­rec­tion of the high court in the fu­ture.

Dean Heather Gerken, in a state­ment af­ter the nom­i­na­tion, praised Ka­vanaugh’s con­tri­bu­tion to the law school as a teacher and men­tor, which the stu­dents took as an en­dorse­ment. She clar­i­fied later that that was not the case as the ad­min­is­tra­tion must re­main neu­tral, al­though in­di­vid­ual fac­ulty were free to re­spond as they saw fit.

Laura Kal­man, a his­tory pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Santa Bar­bara, has writ­ten two books on the his­tory of the Yale Law School, and when asked in a phone in­ter­view what the lat­est tur­moil at the school will mean for the school’s di­rec­tion, she said his­to­ri­ans are poor prog­nos­ti­ca­tors of fu­ture events.

Still, Kal­man said it ap­pears to be as piv­otal a mo­ment for the school as when Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, both Yale Law School grad­u­ates, clashed in 1991 be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, where it was vet­ting Thomas’ nom­i­na­tion to the high court af­ter she had ac­cused him of sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

The pro­fes­sor said it would be hard to imag­ine that the cam­pus would take a big­ger hit for the cur­rent con­tro­ver­sies than it did in those hear­ings when then Dean Guido Cal­abresi tes­ti­fied to the char­ac­ter of both Hill and Thomas.

The re­ac­tion on the cam­pus to the Ka­vanaugh nom­i­na­tion ex­ploded fur­ther on Sept. 16 af­ter Chris­tine Blasey Ford, in a Wash­ing­ton Post story, de­tailed ac­cu­sa­tions that Ka­vanaugh had sex­u­ally as­saulted her when they were both teenagers, a twist that joined the stu­dents ini­tial con­cerns about the judge with the #MeToo move­ment’s de­mand for jus­tice for vic­tims of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Some 260 law school stu­dents held a sit-in last week to protest the nom­i­na­tion, while 120 went to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. to make them­selves heard on the judge’s ju­rispru­dence and the lack of an in­de­pen­dent FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the charges, as well as those sub­se­quently made by Deb­o­rah Ramirez, a for­mer Yale Col­lege class­mate of Ka­vanaugh.

Ramirez has ac­cused Ka­vanaugh of ex­pos­ing him­self at a drunken party when they were fresh­men in 1983-84 and caused her to touch his pe­nis, against her will, when he trust it in her face.

Since then, Julie Swet­nick al­leged Ka­vanaugh was present at a high school party around 1982 where she was the vic­tim of a “gang rape.” She did not iden­tify Ka­vanaugh as one of her at­tack­ers. She said fur­ther that over a series of par­ties, she saw Ka­vanaugh “con­sis­tently en­gage in ex­ces­sive drink­ing and in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tact of a sex­ual na­ture with women dur­ing the early 1980s,” ac­cord­ing to CBS Bal­ti­more.

Ka­vanaugh has vig­or­ously de­nied all the charges made against him by the three women.

A to­tal of 50 Yale Law School fac­ulty on Sept. 21 cau­tioned the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee not to rush to judg­ment on Ka­vanaugh with­out call­ing in the FBI to in­ves­ti­gate the facts. Gerken made a sim­i­lar re­quest a week later af­ter the Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion did the same thing.

In the quickly evolv­ing story, both Blasey Ford and Ka­vanaugh tes­ti­fied in an emo­tional hear­ing Thurs­day that each was cer­tain of their po­si­tions. The Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee then voted 11 to 10 to send the con­fir­ma­tion to the Se­nate floor.

But Sen. Jeff Flake, Repub­li­can of Ari­zona, said he could not vote for the judge un­til there was an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which Pres­i­dent Trump has now or­dered, stip­u­lat­ing it not last more than a week.

“I join the Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion in call­ing for an ad­di­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions made against Judge Ka­vanaugh,” Gerken said in a state­ment Fri­day. “Pro­ceed­ing with the con­fir­ma­tion process with­out fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion is not in the best in­ter­est of the Court or our pro­fes­sion.”

Dur­ing the cur­rent law school protests on the treat­ment of sex ha­rass­ment vic­tims, nu­mer­ous ref­er­ences were made to Anita Hill and Yale’s obli­ga­tion to sup­port a more fair process for the women com­plain­ing about Ka­vanaugh, than was avail­able to Hill.

Alex Taubus, who grad­u­ated from Yale Law School in 2015, said he feels the school has been tar­nished given that it holds it­self out as a place where you do the right thing and not just pre­pare for a ca­reer.

Kal­man said that as she sees in the his­tory of the law school that its stu­dents have al­ways been the best part of the in­sti­tu­tion.

There were how­ever plenty of con­flicts in a clash of cul­tures “be­tween stu­dents, be­tween pro­fes­sors, and be­tween stu­dents and pro­fes­sors” in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Kal­man wrote in the Yale Law Re­view in the sum­mer of 2006.

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