Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Law Schools Do Not Seem to Compete for the Public's Benefit

A public corruption expert reminds us that it is not unusual for public officials to choose friends or associates when making appointments.

The two things that are unusual about this case, he said, referring to Blagojevich, are one, the high level of the official, and two, the apparent brazenness and openness of the alleged incident. - George Brown, law professor, Boston College; December 10,2008, In the old days, buying a Senate seat was not unusual, By David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times

On December 9, 2008, Illinois Gov. Blagojevich was arrested by federal law enforcement agents. The governor has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as solicitation of bribery.[6]

Gov. Blagojevich earned his law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law in 1983.

On June 4, 2007, a federal grand jury indicted Rep. William Jennings "Bill" Jefferson of Louisiana on sixteen charges related to corruption.[3]

Jefferson earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1972, and an LLM in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center in 1996.

One might think prestigious law schools would devote significant portions of their curricula to the ethics of elected governmental office and that largely, only those lawyers with pre-eminent ethics qualifications would run for public offices.

Not only would strengthened ethics courses for lawyers raise the bar for public office, it would also cement the reputational stakes of various law schools in the performance of their graduates.

Ultimately, law school admission standards would have to be tightened, and the entire public could better rely on the reputations of each law school for producing graduates with integrity. Law school reputations currently connote to the public only vague expectations of how brazen and arrogant its graduates behave.

Such improvements in the public interest are highly unlikely. We expect, therefore, to be posting with increasing frequency about the brazen corruption and ethical lapses of lawyers in public office. The shamed law schools will be identified just in case the more serious allegations stick.

Why pick on lawyers? To awaken the public. A disproportionate percentage of law graduates (hardly 2% of the entire workforce) are currently elected to over 20% of public offices. This presents conflicts of interest and unintended concentrations of authority. Combined with self-serving laws tailored to give incumbents subtle advantages over challengers, the country is in growing peril of a permanent political class.

In our opinion, freshening and balancing this mix would be much healthier for our country.