More than 160 deans of the United States’ best-known law schools issued a rare joint statement Tuesday, condemning last week’s attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as well as the lawyers who “betrayed the values of our profession” by challenging election results without evidence. But they did not name the lawyers nor call for censure or disbarment.
In a four-paragraph statement (see text below), the deans of law schools said that the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday “was an assault on our democracy and the rule of law” and that “the effort to disrupt the certification of a free and fair election was a betrayal of the core values that undergird our Constitution.”
It did not name the lawyers who represented President Trump in court with false accusations of fraud in the November election, nor the lawyers who are members of Congress and voted against certifying the results. Several petitions from law school communities have called for the disbarment of some of these lawyers, including Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who led the effort in the Senate to decertify the election result.
It is highly unusual for so many law school deans to come together to make such a statement. Two law school deans who signed it and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions said that some of the signatories wanted to issue a stronger statement.
To get a maximum number of law deans to sign on, the language was made broad and intentionally did not name anybody or call for any kind of censure, they said.
Academics and leaders of higher education institutions have long been reluctant to issue pointed statements on sensitive subjects out of fear of alienating donors and alumni who have different positions.
“Many lawyers and judges worked honestly and in good faith, often in the face of considerable political pressure, to ensure the 2020 election was free and fair,” the law school deans’ statement says. “However, we recognize with dismay and sorrow that some lawyers challenged the outcome of the election with claims that they did not support with facts or evidence. This betrayed the values of our profession.”
Some of the deans who signed the statement include those at the law schools at Harvard and Yale and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia and California at Los Angeles.
More than 10,000 law school alumni and students have signed a petition first circulated by Yale Law School students calling for the disbarment of Hawley and Cruz over what it says were their “efforts to undermine the peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election.” Those include more than 2,300 members of the Missouri, Texas and District of Columbia bars.
The New York State Bar Association will consider expelling former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer in dozens of unsuccessful lawsuits challenging the election results without any proof in the legal documents he filed.
A petition on Change.org by members of the Stanford University community has more than 7,500 signatures calling for the school to sever all ties with Hawley, who earned a history degree at Stanford in 2002. The petition condemns “the open sedition” of Hawley, calls for an investigation of his behavior and says he should resign from the Senate.
The deans’ statement was not the only one from the world of academia that was seen as pulling punches. Inside Higher Education wrote about a Thursday statement issued by the American Political Science Association that called on public officials on “both sides to do better” — until some members complained that only one side was responsible for the attempted insurrection. The organization later apologized for that language, issuing a new statement that conceded that the “both sides” rhetoric had been “deeply harmful.”
Here is the statement by more than 160 law deans:
(Updated with new number of deans and additional signatories)