Letters

A Valuable Lesson

Your 1968 photo [Fall 2000, p. 27] of members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) brings back memories. The student in the foreground is Robert Belt, Class of 1970 and one of my housemates. The BLSA met with Dean Bok to complain that the construction crew for a new Law School building contained no black workers. One night the BLSA, joined by others, decided to protest by staying in Langdell Library after closing hours–a “study-in” similar to a “sit-in.” The Law School administration responded by ordering coffee and pastry and calling in the faculty to join the students in spirited discussion. Then the administration managed to get the construction crew integrated. This was a case study of sophisticated and gracious handling of a situation that could have turned into more serious strife–a lesson as valuable as any that we learned in class.

Fall Issue Had the Right Touch

What a fantastic issue [Fall 2000]. Wonderful that you covered diversity with such a fine touch.

The extended Class Notes were, to me at least, an eye opener in the sense that seldom before have you focused on other than the celebration of the anointed. I would like to congratulate Debra Dickerson [“Unconventional Wisdom,” p. 59] on her attitude and guts and I do congratulate HLS for admitting her.

More Worthy of the New Yorker

I am wondering why you thought your readers should know about the quixotic litigation in federal court by Stephen Young ’74 on a claim that equates environmental opposition to commercial logging in national forests to a religion [Fall 2000, p. 6]. This seems to me an item more worthy of a squib in the New Yorker as a wry commentary on the foibles of humankind. But you not only give this curious story more than a half-page of space, you offer your readers no counterpoint beyond noting the judge’s determination that Young’s suit was “unseemly” and “baseless” and worthy of a sanction. In effect, you have given one lawyer who advocates an extreme view in a matter of serious public policy a free platform to propagate his views. Do those of us who, as a matter of legal doctrine as well as personal philosophy, take strong issue with his twisted view of environmental activism get a chance to respond?

Clark or Mr. Byse?

The Fall 2000 issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin [p. 66] has an article entitled “Byse Receives HLSA Award,” which was most interesting to me.

I am a member of the Class of 1941, now retired. My home was in Panama during my law school years. Still living in Panama as a civilian employee of the Panama Canal in 1944, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Panama had a large U.S. Navy establishment, and because I was able to type I was given the rank of Yeoman 3d class, subsequently making 2d class.

As Panama was my home and being fluent in Spanish, I was assigned to Naval Intelligence as an agent and wore civilian clothes. My friends tell me I am the only service person they knew who stayed home, wore civilian clothes, and drew overseas pay.

Most of the intelligence officers were attorneys and I was quite friendly with them. Among the group was Lt. Clark Byse. Of course at that time I addressed him as “Mr. Byse.” Years later when Clark Byse came to HLS I became friendly with him. My first question to him then was, should I call you Clark or Mr. Byse? From that day on, he was “Clark” to me whenever our paths crossed.

I cannot think of a more qualified person to receive the Harvard Law School Association Award.

Article Betrays Double Standard

Well, you’ve done it again. Just when my charitable tendencies toward HLS were warmed by the kind letter from my class agent regarding our class gift, the Bulletin arrived. This issue contained a fawning article about a member of the Class of 1993 who specializes in civil disobedience [Fall 2000, p. 58]. Now there’s nothing wrong with peaceful protest now and then. But your article (to its credit for completeness) described that she was accepted to HLS a week after she was paroled. From where? From the federal penitentiary after serving a two-year sentence for destroying government property–a com-puter used to guide nuclear weapons. Two years in the federal pen–this is not a minor offense. However, had she violated the law in a way that is deemed less socially acceptable to HLS, e.g., robbery, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, I doubt she would have been admitted. But breaking federal law because you are antinuke is a permissible illegality, rather than a black mark on one’s character. Now I’ve got it.

A Trust with Animals

On the Issue of Animals’ Rights [Letters, Bulletin, Summer 2000], it was the jurist Jeremy Bentham who posed the one question whose answer matters: “Do animals suffer?”

Of course, the answer to Bentham’s question is an emphatic “yes”. Our fellow creatures, however lowly in intellect, can and do suffer, and they do so more or less in the same way that we humans suffer. They sense and smart from pain, they feel loneliness, they languish when neglected, and bound about with joy when loved and comforted, etc.

But unlike humans, animals cannot express themselves in any language that we find intelligible, even though many if not most of them have been shown to have non-human languages of their own.

Since non-human animals cannot state their case in human language, the issue is not whether we should establish specified rights that they presumably could invoke, but whether and to what extent they are entitled to protection and guardianship from us, who can and have caused them so much unjust suffering.

Perhaps each human should have standing to allege that another human has breached the trust–the human guardianship of other species–by anti-social behavior that has wrongly caused unjust suffering to a non-human animal. It is clearly in this direction that animal rights law should evolve.

By the way, this is not a “leftist” issue–it is a humanitarian one that kind people everywhere should be obliged to consider and act upon.

Chayes Example Should Be Followed

I was trying to express my dismay with Professor Alan Dershowitz’s conduct on CNN after he disparaged the character of Kathrine Harris, the duly elected secretary of state of Florida.

As I searched the Internet site to see how I could send a letter to this effect, I noticed on your Letters page [Fall 2000] that Professor Chayes had died. I stopped short. My interest in Professor Dershowitz waned.

Abe Chayes was a man I will always admire. His keen intelligence was leavened with a wry wit. The sparkle in his eyes revealed a life that had known both the highest circles of power in the Kennedy administration and the day-to-day flow of academic life. He had heard Kipling’s challenge and accepted it–he could “meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same.”

The grace with which he taught Civil Procedure was disarming. It made the experience of a 1L a good deal more bearable.

I never spoke with him after that class. But, I remember him as clearly as if it were yesterday. It was more than 25 years ago.

Professor Dershowitz could learn much from the memory of Abe Chayes. I only wish he would.

A Misplaced Ax

I noticed (as have, no doubt, many others) the illustration of a “Calvary ax” in the Gallery section of the Fall 2000 Bulletin. Unless the implement in question was intended for use on Golgotha, I assume it is in fact a cavalry ax.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Mr. Huwe and others who wrote to point out that the illustration from Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii does indeed depict a cavalry ax.