Warmth and concern

I feel compelled to write to express both warmth and concern about certain portions of the Winter 2008 Harvard Law Bulletin.

Clark Byse in 1983

Credit: Michael Nagy Clark Byse

First, I want to second the warm comments about Professor Clark Byse (see story). I never had him in class, but I found him warm and encouraging when I was a 40-year-old searching how to come into law teaching.

Second, as someone who worked in international commercial arbitration for 14 years, I applaud the school for bringing more international and comparative law courses into the first year (see story). Back in the early ’80s, questions about international or comparative approaches to similar problems (How did Japanese law deal with sparks coming off trains?) were met with blank stares. Thanks for helping students become aware earlier of the world. My only quibble is that I hope that the international law classes are truly international law—not U.S. foreign relations law. Coming from the traditions of Professors Detlev Vagts and C. Clyde Ferguson, I am worried that the content of these courses might do more damage than the profound current ignorance of the subject if students “think” they are learning international law when in fact they are just learning a portion of U.S. constitutional law with regard to U.S. foreign relations. I hope that the comparative courses draw from European, Latin American, African and Asian traditions. For example, one of the marvelous things I learned in international commercial arbitration was that the Libyan Civil Code was largely drawn from the Egyptian Civil Code, which itself drew on the French Civil Code. Knowing such history helps the students represent their clients in difficult cases.

A great professor and caring human being

Professor Harold Berman at the podium

Credit: Martha Stewart Professor Harold Berman taught law students for six decades.

I was four weeks into my first year at the law school when my father passed away, causing me to miss a week of classes. My roommate went to each of my professors and requested that he be allowed to tape, solely for my use, the sessions I would miss during the week I would be out. With the exception of Professor Harold Berman, each one turned down the request. The death of Professor Berman (see story) brings back memories of not only a great professor, but a warm, caring human being. He will be missed.

Clinton and Thomas redux

This letter concerns a “short take” (see story) in the Winter 2008 Bulletin by Assistant Professor Jeannie Suk ’02 regarding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Ms. Suk wonders why “Justice Thomas has fared so badly while Mr. Clinton seems to have fared relatively well since he left office.” She asserts that “our country put Clarence Thomas through hell on the basis of accusations that don’t approach the sexual allegations that we have rightly allowed to recede into the background of Bill Clinton’s distinguished career.”

The Senate had a duty to explore the allegiance of Ms. Hill in an effort to determine Mr. Thomas’ fitness to serve on the highest court in the land. Nor did Mr. Clinton escape unscathed. He was put through the hell of an impeachment proceeding which resulted in less than a majority vote, let alone the required two-thirds vote required for a conviction. He was also barred from practicing law for five years by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Note from a stakeholder

Winter 2008 Harvard Law Bulletin

Winter 2008 Harvard Law Bulletin

From the Winter 2008 issue:
“… there was remarkable agreement among all the stakeholders that change was needed in three key areas.”

For shame.

This misuse of stakeholder has been a fad in the lay press for the last few years. Somebody who didn’t know what the word meant obviously saw it and said, Gee, that’s a clever way to refer to a person who has a stake in something, not realizing that it means exactly the opposite: a disinterested party who holds the stakes pending the outcome of an issue between the interested parties.