Most Read
    Image 01 Image 02 Image 03

    Brian Leiter’s meltdown

    Brian Leiter’s meltdown

    Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School regularly attacks other law professor bloggers in particularly nasty terms.  I didn’t even know who Leiter was when an academic warned me that one day Leiter would target me, and that prediction came true.

    Leiter has an obsession with “crazed right-wing blogs,” which Leiter says includes yours truly.  Leiter has a particular fetish for Prof. Glenn Reynolds, who Leiter blames for all the ills of society right wing blogs who have more traffic than Leiter does:

    Key to the success of all these blogs is “Instapundit,” the  blog by the reprehensible University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, whose sui generis combination of ignorance and moral depravity has made him the mainstay of the far right blogosphere (well outside academia), and who links vigorously to any academic he can find who is benighted as he is.

    Leiter also hates the folks at Volokh Conspiracy who, in Leiter’s estimation, are “morally deranged.”

    So when I saw this post by David Bernstein at Volokh today about Leiter in meltdown over a fairly mild critical email he received, it was like, Hah!  A New Civility Standard:

    Prof. Brian Leiter is apparently grossly offended that an attorney sent him an email stating “You’re a ‘Law and ______’ Professor, not a lawyer.  How would you know how to ‘think like a lawyer’?”  Leiter not only sent his correspondent a pointed lengthy response criticizing his “impertinent,” “juvenile,” and “insolent” email,  but added at the end that “I will be sure to send a copy of this entire correspondence to the name partners of your firm,” suggesting that the attorney should be punished, or at least formally reprimanded.

    Of course, being a philosopher who values reason and consistency, I’m sure Prof. Leiter would seek to have the same standard of civility applied to everyone, including himself.  And writing “how would you know how to ‘think like a lawyer?’” in private correspondence, by a rather anonymous chap no less, seems relatively tame compared to some of what gets stated publicly in the blogosphere by prominent individuals, such as calling one’s professional colleagues “morally deranged,”crazies“, “instaignorance”, and so forth and so on–the kind of statements Leiter, certainly henceforth, would never, ever make.  But if he does, you know whom [embedded link removed]  to contact [embedded link removed] to complain about “impertinent,” “insolent,” and “juvenile” postings.

    Of course, unlike young attorneys, tenured law professors are largely immune from sanctions when engaging in speech related to public issues.  But that, of course, wouldn’t stop any upstanding professor from voluntarily waiving such protections and allowing himself to be penalized for the same kind of conduct he would want others punished for, now would it?  Thanks to Brian’s standard-setting, we can now look forward to a much more civil blogosphere.

    Law professor Paul Campos at Lawyers Guns & Money blog (not my favorite blog for reasons having nothing to do with Campos), refers to the whole thing as Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash:

    The truly grotesque level of pomposity displayed in Leiter’s frankly unhinged response to what, after all, seems like a perfectly reasonable question, is difficult to describe.   I’m aware from other correspondence that Leiter is indeed frantically striving to identify some of his anonymous critics, so he can expose them to the unspeakable consequences that must surely befall people for having the “insolence” and “impertinence” to criticize Brian Leiter on the internet.

    So why do I have mixed feelings?

    I have received a lot of nasty emails over the years and worse, so I know the feeling.  And I certainly would be within my rights to publish those emails, names, email addresses and all I know about the senders as Leiter has done (and one day I may do that).

    I don’t know all of what Leiter has been through, but I’m pretty confident I can one up him. So I understand the frustration.

    But the email which set him off seems really, really, really mild.

    All the guy did was question Leiter’s “ability to think like a lawyer.”  Leiter has proven him right.

    Update — Welcome Instapundit readers.  Thanks Prof. Reynolds for the link.  Heh.

    Update 3-6-2013 — Just stumbled upon this interesting post from 2009, Brian Leiter, Academic Thug.  Apparently Leiter has been fighting with people since the beginning of time.


    Donations tax deductible
    to the full extent allowed by law.



    nordic_prince | March 5, 2013 at 12:01 am

    I hope they keep sharp objects away from his rubber room. The guy is liable to hurt himself.

    jimposter | March 5, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I had never heard of this guy. He seems to just be another self-anointed king of a fantasy kingdom where he is the wisest of them all.

    In truth the noise he makes fades quickly as the shelf life of most blog musings is 24 hours, after which it fades into a cache somewhere.

    Threatening to “tell mommy” on critics though is embarrassingly impotent even for such a chattering ninny. Any law firm partner, upon receiving such a notice would probably ask first who the hell a Leiter is, and secondly why anyone would care what he thinks.

    Has Leitner been appointed an Obama czar yet?

    janitor | March 5, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Late afterthought. It occurred to me that if there was anything taught in the law school I attended on the order of how to think like a lawyer, it included not taking stuff personally or emotionally. (In fact, some of us have had practices in which we kind of prefer at the end if opposing counsel is sputtering ad hominems rather than smiling broadly.)

    I suspect that the “___” standing in for philosophy (I myself don’t think much of this exhausted discipline), coupled with a question that implies a dearth of real-life legal practice, might have hit a nerve.

    casualobserver | March 5, 2013 at 1:09 am

    And the line between ranting activists and ‘academics’ continues to blur………

    Leave a Comment

    Leave a Reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.

    Notify me of followup comments via e-mail (or subscribe without commenting.)

    Font Resize
    Contrast Mode
    Send this to a friend