Early recognition

The Spring 1988 Bulletin featured Professor David Shapiro ’57 with students, including then 3L Michelle Robinson (far right corner).

Credit: Martha Stewart The Spring 1988 Bulletin featured Professor David Shapiro ’57 with students, including then 3L Michelle Robinson (far right corner).

I received the Fall 2008 Bulletin with the picture of President-elect Obama on the cover. The story by Seth Stern was excellent. The face page of the story states, “In law school, Barack Obama ’91 already looked—and led—like a future president.” In fact, the Bulletin recognized President-elect Obama’s potential even before he finished his first semester.

In the Winter 1989 Bulletin there is an article on pages 16-17 titled “Infinite Variety—The Class of 1991.” In it eight new members of the class were profiled, one of whom was Barack Obama.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Kenneth Wolf for bringing this article to our attention. As it turns out, before Barack Obama was quoted in the Bulletin in 1989, and long before the president appeared on the Bulletin’s front cover this fall, the first lady got there first.

An article on teaching and practicing professional responsibility in the Spring 1988 Bulletin included a reflection from Michelle Robinson ’88, then a member of the Legal Aid Bureau, on her way to a job at Sidley & Austin. An excerpt follows:

I have a case now where a woman is trying to get more visitation rights with her 12-year-old son.

She signed over custody to the father after she tried to commit suicide a couple of years ago. There is tremendous tension between the two parents, and I must ask whether what either parent wants is in the best interest of their son.

Summer 2009, Letters

Credit: Martha Stewart In 1988 Chris Rosado ’88 and the future first lady outside the Legal Aid Bureau.

Suppose I didn’t believe she should have more time with him? I do believe she is now able to take more responsibility for his supervision, but if I didn’t, I would counsel her, challenge her to examine her motives for wanting him, and hope that through discourse she would come to the opinion herself that she wasn’t ready for more responsibility.

To me, ethics is common sense. If you think things through, you’ll come up with the right answer.

The clinical experience, without a doubt, has altered my perception of ethical issues. Supervisors at the Legal Aid Bureau are always available. It’s not going to be like that in a firm. Who’s got time to sit around and talk about moral issues?

The school should give more support for clinical work. Placement opportunities in private firms are easy to come by; clinical experience should be made just as available.

Dissenting opinion

Your fawning front-page article on Barack Obama crossed the line to sycophancy. Not all HLS alums think his election was a good thing.

The review and the White House, in review

Your cover story on Barack Obama in the recent Bulletin reminded me of the other connections between presidents of the Harvard Law Review and presidents of the United States. Obviously, Obama will be the first to have held both offices. However, one president of the United States had a son who was president of the Harvard Law Review (William Howard Taft and Robert A. Taft), one nominee for president had a son who was president of the Review (Charles Evans Hughes and Charles Evans Hughes Jr.) and one former president of the Review made a serious run for the presidency (Robert A. Taft again, who would have been the Republican nominee in 1952 if Eisenhower had not become a Republican).

Turning from the presidency to the Supreme Court, Charles Evans Hughes succeeded William Howard Taft as chief justice, and Charles Evans Hughes Jr. succeeded Robert A. Taft as president of the Review.

Irony overlooked

I was somewhat surprised that your piece on President-elect Obama ’91 did not recognize the sad irony in the fact that the first HLS graduate to become president was Rutherford B. Hayes (class of 1845). Bravely fighting to preserve the Union and end the vast moral evil of slavery, Hayes and many thousands like him such as Justice Holmes (class of 1866) made an Obama presidency possible. Indeed, Hayes was the only president who served on the Union side during the Civil War to have been wounded in combat—four times in his case. Yet Hayes would go on to become president through the infamous compromise of 1876 that took Union troops out of the South, thus effectively ending Reconstruction and deferring civil rights for the freedmen and their descendants until the next century.

Troubling title

HLS Fall 2008 Bulletin Cover

HLS Fall 2008 Bulletin

Your article on President-elect Obama [“A Commander in Chief”] was quite interesting but I found the title troubling. Surely our leaders, whether of the nation or of the law review, are not primarily military figures. Whoever chose the title seems unaware that, as was observed by Justice Robert Jackson but ignored by the Bush administration, the president is “the commander in chief of the Army and Navy and not the commander in chief of the American people.”