Shame on law schools - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Shame on law schools

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Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2005 4:34 pm | Updated: 7:43 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Considering that most everybody involved in this case — law professors, military recruiters, members of Congress — is a lawyer, it's no wonder the matter has landed in the Supreme Court.

In 1994, Congress passed a law requiring law schools to allow recruiters from the Judge Advocate General's Corps the same access as recruiters from civilian law firms or risk losing federal funding — which can be substantial. Yale alone gets $300 million.

Many law schools had barred or impeded military recruiters from their campuses, ostensibly out of disagreement with the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays. That the president or Congress could overturn this policy at any time didn't seem to enter into their reasoning, and suggests there's something deeper at work — like a campus anti-military animus left over from the Vietnam War.

When it looked like the military might get serious about the fund cutoff, some law schools sued, losing in district court but persuading the appeals court to rule that the requirement unconstitutionally infringed on their freedom of speech and association, nicely packaged as "expressive association." The appeals court found for the law schools.

It does not speak well of these schools that they try to deny their students JAG careers that don't pay much but do offer a lot of responsibility, legal variety, travel and adventure. But the broader issue here is the relationship of a professional military to American society at large and to the campus in particular. The words of E. Joshua Rosenkranz, the lawyer representing 31 law schools (at least 13 of which won't identify themselves) suing the Pentagon, are especially telling: "If, as the Supreme Court has held, bigots have a First Amendment right to exclude gays, then certainly universities have a First Amendment right to exclude bigots."

The U.S. military doubtless has its bigots, but for all its imperfections it is far more socially, economically, racially and ethnically diverse than our top law schools.

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