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New York Post

 

Hofstra Hosts a Terror Fan

October 05, 2007

By Walter Olson

Disbarred Felon To Teach Legal Ethics

How politicized are America's law schools? So much so that administrators at Long Island's Hofstra Law School may well have had no idea that they'd touch off a furor when they invited Lynne Stewart - the disbarred felon and radical lawyer - to lecture on legal ethics. It's not, after all, as if they were bringing in someone really controversial - like, say, former Harvard President Larry Summers.

Stewart, recall, was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to terrorism. A jury found that she had conspired with her client, the bloodthirsty "blind sheikh" Omar Abdul Rahman, to smuggle out messages to his followers. The followers in question had committed such atrocities as the first World Trade Center bombing and the massacre of 58 Western tourists in Luxor, Egypt - as well as plotting unsuccessfully to slaughter thousands more New Yorkers by blowing up city landmarks. (She remains at liberty while her case is on appeal.)

Secret prison wiretaps leave no doubt that Stewart broke the law in the manner alleged. And she has forthrightly acknowledged her ideological solidarity with Abdul Rahman as a foe of American imperialism, and her support for "directed violence" against "the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism, sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions."

Yet Stewart's supporters still insist that she's (to quote an Arizona State law student) "a high principled idealist who was singled out for her willingness to advocate for unpopular and controversial clients." Inevitably, she has become a regular on the college circuit, addressing audiences at San Francisco State, Portland State and many other institutions; one Minnesota event under putatively educational auspices was later described as a "rally for credit." (She did miss out on the dignity of being named a "Public Interest Mentor" during her paid gig at Stanford, when law dean Kathleen Sullivan reversed underlings who bestowed that honorific on her.)

When Hofstra sent out the brochure for its Oct. 14-16 conference, "Lawyering on the Edge: Unpopular Clients, Difficult Cases, and Zealous Advocates," it didn't mention Stewart's conviction or disbarment - listing her merely as "high profile radical and human rights attorney."

That anodyne description led James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" to wonder whether the school really "regards a disbarred criminal as an expert on legal ethics and someone who has been convicted of giving material support to mass murder as a champion of human rights."

That criticism sent Professor Monroe Freedman, a legal-ethics specialist who's among Hofstra's best-known law professors, into what looked like damage-control mode. "Stewart is not being invited to teach trial advocacy," he wrote. "Implicit in lawyering at the edge is the risk of going over the edge, both ethically and legally. Like every speaker at our highly successful conferences, Stewart will speak for 20 minutes and then be subjected to sharp questioning for an equal 20 minutes. Students are more likely, therefore, to come away viewing her not as a role model, but as a cautionary lesson. That's effective education in lawyers' ethics, which is too often considered a dry, uninteresting, and unimportant subject."

In short, Freedman leaves the impression that Stewart will face a lion's den of severe critics. One might even conclude that the decision to bring her in was a Bollinger-and-Ahmadinejad "invite-her-to-refute-her" sort of affair. But the conference schedule tells a different story.

Joining Stewart's panel will be attorneys Ron Kuby and Richard P. Mauro. Kuby preceded Stewart in representing Abdul Rahman, and has stridently denounced Stewart's prosecution in the press. Mauro, a Utah criminal-defense attorney, has been involved in unrelated controversies in which lawyers for unpopular defendants have faced dangers of personal legal jeopardy - a theme, of course, that Stewart's partisans would very much like to associate with her claims to martyrdom.

Are we really supposed to believe that the point of assembling this panel was to send students away with the lesson that Stewart's actions went "over the edge, both ethically and legally"?

Indeed, the overall lineup for the three-day conference looks very unlike the lion's-den model, and a good deal closer to the "rally for credit." The banquet speaker turns out to be leftist lawyer Gerald Lefcourt, another of Stewart's most vocal defenders. And the keynote speaker is none other than Michael Tigar - who represented Stewart at her trial.

Critics may have the last laugh. The conference brochure announces that "Continuing Legal Education credits and scholarships are available." (Such credits are needed to remain in good standing with the New York bar.) Yet (as a commenter pointed out at Legal Ethics Blog) New York regulations declare that such courses "shall not be taught by a disbarred attorney, whether the disbarred attorney is the sole presenter or one of several instructors."

The Hofstra brochure doesn't warn in any way that the lawyers paying $475 to attend might not be entitled to all those credits thanks to Stewart's role as an instructor. Were the organizers lawyering a bit closer to the edge than they realized?

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/seven/10052007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/hofstra_hosts_a_terror_fan.htm

 

 
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