Monday, March 25, 2013

Legal Education and Law School Professors in Battle Over Anonymous Postings and Posters

Elie Mystal has the battleground story at Celebrity Law Prof Death Match.

The immediate question in that discussion is:

Should personally disparaging and/or libelous anonymous postings and/or posters be banned (be banned by law) from the Web?

The answer is: Yes, absolutely!

See our previous posting at:
Anonymous Heinous Postings
Directed at Two Female Yale Law School Students
Lead to Revelation of Poster Identities:
Free Speech Law in Need of Change

Personally disparaging and/or libelous anonymous postings online should be eliminated by law, without question, because anonymous posters use anonymity -- and that is why they post anonymously -- to post materials about others that they would never post under their own, real identities.

People hide behind anonymity not to do good things, but to do bad things.
Why protect the bad at the cost of the good? That is foolhardy law.

What makes modern disparaging anonymity much worse than normal disparagement is that such postings potentially live forever online. They do not disappear once they are "said", as an oral defamation. They do not move to the obscure stacks of a library in some printed publication, as in the case of libel. Rather, they remain freely searchable by anyone online, regardless of their defaming, libelous nature or the harm that they do to personal reputations, a harm virtually impossible for most individuals to counteract.

That is not the free speech that the Founders intended.

Free speech does not mean the freedom to cast dispersion on others under the cloak of anonymity.

Free speech means you are free to to say what you want to say, which freedom you actually have (!) -- but being a citizen in a free country means that you are also to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions -- under your own name. Free speech is protected. Libelous speech is not.
Say what you want -- in your real identity -- and take the consequences.

Freedom is not just a process of "rights".
It is a process of "rights and responsibilities".

The grant of anonymity to allow disparagement
is a grant of rights, but a denial of responsibilities.

That imbalance has to go.
There are no rights without responsibilities.

As for the topic of "reforming legal education", a topic for which the two battling law profs are known, we have several postings about law school education here:

The Socratic Method and Thinking Like a Lawyer: A Model for Other Academic Disciplines

Stanford Law School's New Model of Multi-Dimensional Legal Education Unveiled as a Pioneering, Exciting and Transformational Development

Legal Education : Problems and Reform – An Editorial at the

Law School Education and Employment After Graduation: Does the World Owe You a Living? Surely Not

Legal Education: Its Real Value According to a Law School Dean

Law School Education Works : In the Setting of Legal Clinics, it may be TOO GOOD

UPCOMING EVENT! What is the Future of Legal Education? New York Law School and Harvard Law School Present “Future Ed: New Business Models for U.S. and Global Legal Education”
The future of legal education? SIMPLE. SIMulated Professional Learning Environment.

Does Professional Specialization and Selfishness Lead to General Tunnel Vision that Excludes Influences Outside One's Own Sphere of Interest?

The ABA Journal links to the blog Work Product [] and describes the blog as follows:
"I have this crazy idea that lawyers can be interested in things that aren’t strictly law-related, and that those interests can make them better lawyers." The author [attorney Jennifer S. Lubinski] has a background in creative writing and discusses history, poetry and literature as well as civil litigation in her home state."
[emphasis added]
A nice thought, of course, but our experience tells us that many lawyers and many people in other professions manifest strong cases of tunnel vision by concentrating largely on their own disciplines. Indeed, many are often focused entirely on THEMSELVES and what THEY are doing. Perhaps that is human.

In a similar vein, we once read a travel guide's report that well-to-do travel clients especially are interested ONLY in what THEY THEMSELVES are doing.

On the professional side, this state of things is surely an inevitable aspect of modern specialization, which rewards specialists greatly. One can not fairly find much fault in a specialist focused on his field of choice. An expert -- by definition -- is someone focused on that expertise.

Privately, people of course are interested mainly in their own lives, so that the self-oriented interest of travelers in themselves can be excused, providing that normal courtesy to others in the surroundings is exercised. We were once at a hotel where a famous celebrity ruined the evening for everyone else in the dining area by creating a bad scene about HIS noodle dish. A proletarian.

However, there can be a very selfish aspect to professional focus in law and elsewhere, manifesting the territorial nature of professionalism, where peer group pressure and peer belonging are more important than anything else.

Such groups can block or ignore outside facts and influences as unnecessary and troublesome intruders.

Professions and professional organizations are primarily economic monopolies  -- de facto in many cases, but also de jure, as in the law, via bar associations. Inclusion or exclusion.

Even within professions, there are strong barriers to entry. If you are not a patent attorney, or a patent examiner, or patent judge, for example, but you dare to criticize the patent system, you may well be ignored.

We started criticizing the U.S. patent system 10 years ago, but only now are insider voices repeating in essence what we started writing many years ago.

One sees a comparable phenomenon in debates over purported solutions to current banking and financial crises. Insiders show little sign of "changing" the traditional practices that undeniably lead to inevitable cataclysms.

A proverb here on point holds that "men move only when they must".

Barring that, humankind is quite content to coast along in comfortable, if limited worlds, where interest in and tolerance of outside realms is minimal.

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