Simply a Bad Idea?

It astounds me that Peter Ferrara ’79 can blame the Democrats for the failure of the president’s proposal to privatize a portion of Social Security, as described in “26 Years Later” (Summer 2005 Bulletin). The last time I looked, Republicans held the presidency and control of both Houses of Congress. How then can the failure be a “GOP capitulation to the Democrats”? Could it be instead that privatization, at least in the form proposed, was simply a bad idea?

Sidebar Stays Inside the Box

In the summer 2005 Harvard Law Bulletin, I was very happy to see an article on the so-called “War on Drugs“–with all the damage it has caused to our country, it’s really a “War Against the People” and their rights to private choices. The story was in keeping with the sentiment expressed on the cover, “breaking free from old thinking about criminal law.”

Ethan Nadelmann '84

Credit: John Goodman Ethan Nadelmann ’84 of the Drug
Policy Alliance

In a refreshing statement, Ethan Nadelmann ’84, head of the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York City-based policy group, said: “If we’re lucky, our grandchildren will recall the global war on drugs of the late 20th and early 21st centuries as some bizarre mania.”

But I was shocked to see on the very next page the article “Rx for a Public Health Problem: A Public-Private Partnership at HLS Looks to Limit Illegal Internet Drug Sales.” The rhetoric was the “same old, same old” call to organize a new war on drugs. The moral high ground is as usual “to save the children.”

In fact, adults suffering from serious medical concerns have welcomed this Internet activity, because their doctors, in fear of having their lives destroyed by police actions of the Drug Enforcement Administration, avoid prescribing medications for pain and anxiety conditions. There is a chronic undermedication for pain in this country. Some sufferers have been so desperate that they have committed suicide rather than live in extreme pain. Some people move abroad to find doctors who can prescribe following their medical judgment, unimpaired by terror campaigns of police looking over their shoulders. The police do not have the medical knowledge to understand the subtleties of the doctor/patient relationship and should not interfere.

Guidelines Will Continue to Guide

This is written in the hope of answering the question left by the article on sentencing guidelines in the Harvard Law Bulletin (Summer 2005): Will the Booker decision be followed by sentencing disparity in the federal courts?

I was a member of the committee that issued a report titled “Sentencing Guidelines: Structuring Judicial Discretion,” dated October 1976. It stated: “The guidelines system, in brief, takes advantage of and incorporates the collective wisdom of experienced and capable sentencing judges by developing representations of underlying court policies.”

The guidelines represent the expected decisions of sentencing judges crystallized in a statistical system that takes account of the characteristics of each defendant and the gravity of the offense. Thus, I expect that they will be followed in the vast majority of cases.

What Life Is All About

The spring issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin impressed me greatly. “Giving Back” is what life is all about. Lawyers do hold a “sacred public trust,” and “all of us have an obligation to society.”

As the daughter (age 87) of a lawyer and the sister of Erwin Griswold, I am proud of the profession and of the emphasis Dean Elena Kagan is promoting for HLS.

I know Erwin was hard on women law students, but they were admitted under his administration. He reflected his era, and I am grateful (I believe he would be also) for the direction the dean is pursuing.