At least one contributor to the NYT’s “Room for Debate” roundtable seems confident lawmakers can finesse the First Amendment dangers of proposals broad enough to criminalize some instances of saying “hello” to a stranger on the street. Scott Greenfield offers one criminal defense lawyer’s perspective.
As members of the faculty of Harvard Law School, we write to voice our strong objections to the Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures imposed by the central university administration…
Amid the clamor to provide fuller remedies to complainants who file sexual assault and harassment charges, the university is preparing to trample the interests of others:
Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.
Among the problems: overly broad definitions of misconduct in situations like that of mutual incapacitation by alcohol, and procedures that deny “any adequate opportunity to discover the facts charged and to confront witnesses and present a defense at an adversary hearing.”
Had Harvard arrived at these rules as a result of purely internal deliberations, it would be one thing. But in practice it’s yielding to strong-arm pressure from the combined efforts of the Obama Department of Justice and Education Department Office for Civil Rights (for more details, see my article for Commentary last year.) Like hundreds of other colleges and universities over the past year, Harvard responded to this pressure by meekly folding its hand:
The university’s sexual harassment policy departs dramatically from [existing] legal principles, jettisoning balance and fairness in the rush to appease certain federal administrative officials.
We recognize that large amounts of federal funding may ultimately be at stake. But Harvard University is positioned as well as any academic institution in the country to stand up for principle in the face of funding threats.
It’s especially gratifying to see that the letter’s 28 signers include prominent scholars associated over the years variously with feminist, liberal, and left-leaning causes, such as Nancy Gertner, Charles Ogletree, Charles Nesson, Janet Halley, and Elizabeth Bartholet, along with perhaps more expected names like longtime contrarian Alan Dershowitz. A turning point? Let’s hope so. The letter is here (h/t Eugene Volokh; & further Boston Globe coverage). [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]
Also: “the danger of holding an innocent person responsible is real.” [Judith Shulevitz, New Republic, quoting Prof. Halley]
If done by anyone other than unionists, this would by now be a trending national story:
The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you f*cking wh*re!”
“She was scared,” said a Top Chef crewmember who witnessed the incident.
Bravo had incurred the wrath of Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25 by using its own production assistants as drivers, reports the Boston Herald:
The picketers lobbed sexist, racist and homophobic slurs at the rest of the cast and crew for most of the day, the website reported, and when production wrapped, the “Top Chef” crew found that tires were slashed on 14 of their cars. Milton police confirmed that the union members were “threatening, heckling and harassing” but said no arrests were made.
The Herald quotes a spokeswoman for Local 25, Melissa Hurley, sounding completely unapologetic: “As far as we’re concerned, nothing happened.” Or to put it differently: Teamsters Will Be Teamsters.
More, including the violent history that makes this incident anything but “isolated,” from the Boston Globe. I’ve posted on the curious exemption of unions from the law of harassment, stalking, hostile environment, intimidation, etc. here, here (more on Philadelphia Quaker meetinghouse arson), and in various other posts, as well as in my book The Excuse Factory.
- Harris v. Quinn aftermath: California teacher’s suit might tee up renewed challenge to Abood [Rebecca Friedrichs, earlier here, here, etc.] Recalling when CTA spent its members money trying to convince them their voting preferences were wrong [Mike Antonucci]
- Calcasieu parish school board in Louisiana votes to stop paying insurance on student athletics [AP/EdWeek]
- “Maryland Tested Kids on Material It No Longer Teaches, Guess What Happened?” [Robby Soave, Common Core transition]
- Sexual harassment training of college faculty: a professor talks back [Mark Graber, Balkinization]
- Eighth Circuit orders new trial in Teresa Wagner’s lawsuit charging Iowa Law discriminated against her because of her conservative views [Paul Caron/TaxProf, earlier]
- “The 4 NYC teachers banned from classrooms who rake in millions” [Susan Edelman, New York Post] Adventures in Bronx teacher tenure [New York Daily News]
- New Jersey: “Expensive New School Security System Traps Teacher in Bathroom” [Lenore Skenazy, Reason]
When is it considered a success to generate more complaints against one’s own organization? When you’re a newly assembled Title IX team, in this case installed at the University of North Carolina following pressure from federal regulators and students. [Harry Painter, Pope Center] Our previous coverage of the Department of Education/Department of Justice “blueprint” on campus harassment and sexual misconduct allegations is here.
It’s no longer a specifically enumerated crime to do that on the streets of Houston in an annoying or flirtatious way [Volokh]
The federal government is backing away from the nationwide “blueprint” for campus speech restrictions issued this May by the Departments of Education and Justice. The agencies’ settlement with the University of Montana sought to impose new, unconstitutional speech restrictions, due process abuses, and an overbroad definition of sexual harassment and proclaimed the agreement to be “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.”
But in a letter sent last week to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the new head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Catherine Lhamon, said that “the agreement in the Montana case represents the resolution of that particular case and not OCR or DOJ policy.”
FIRE adds that the Department’s recent actions in cases involving public colleges no longer insist on “the worst features of the Montana settlement.”
EEOC v. Boh Brothers is a new Fifth Circuit en banc decision allowing liability on a theory of hostile workplace environment sex discrimination arising from crude and aggressive locker-room banter in an all-male workplace (on facts differing somewhat from those in Oncale v. Sundowner, the 1998 Supreme Court case countenancing such liability). The dissent by Judge Edith Jones, p. 46 at footnote 3, cites my “Sentence First, Verdict Afterward,” from the July issue of Commentary magazine, on the federal government’s unhealthy interest lately in developing legal doctrines that pressure private institutions into adopting speech codes aimed at protecting listeners’ sensitivities.
Don’t miss the “Etiquette for Ironworkers” parody legal memo on p. 58, either. How many dissents include a parody legal memo?
In many cases, I’m sympathetic when government defendants who get sued ask for their legal costs to be covered. Among other reasons: 1) claims against individual supervisors are regularly advanced tactically in cases that really arise from discontent aimed at the government as employer; and 2) the in terrorem effect of individual liability can otherwise create pressure for pre-emptive settlement. Does it make a difference when the alleged misconduct serves the purpose of personal gratification for the boss rather than advancing the interests of the government employer? Or — in the case of San Diego’s mayor — that his bad behavior toward women has apparently been an open secret in the city’s political circles for years? [San Diego Union-Tribune]