Harvard said on Saturday that a law professor who is representing Harvey Weinstein would not continue as faculty dean of an undergraduate house after his term ends on June 30, bowing to months of pressure from students…
But when Mr. Sullivan joined the defense team of Mr. Weinstein, the Hollywood producer, in January, many students expressed dismay, saying that his decision to represent a person accused of abusing women disqualified Mr. Sullivan from serving in a role of support and mentorship to students. Mr. Weinstein is scheduled to go to trial in June in Manhattan on rape and related charges.
One of the main casualties of the whole #MeToo movement has been due process. The movement has actually glorified dispensing with it altogether. Sullivan is a victim of that, and Harvard’s not the only place where law students have disparaged it in cases like this. Personally I think that Harvey Weinstein is disgusting for what he did, but in our legal system–up until now at least–we’ve had the right to counsel, a fair trial and presumption of innocence, which give unpopular defendants a shot at a fair hearing. Evidently no more, or perhaps not much longer.
The law students who protest this, however, haven’t thought it through very carefully. There are two things that will go out the window with due process.
The first are rights. If there is no due process, there are no rights, there is only the mob, and the mob (real or virtual) can be fickle and vicious. We’ve had lynch mobs in the country before, and we know where that leads. (Sullivan, the first African-American student dean at Harvard, really knows where that leads.) For a country where rights are an obsession, the trend to undermine them in this way is amazing. Due process can be time consuming and expensive (ours are too much both) but rights cannot be defended in a system without substantive due process, and part of that substantive due process is having counsel.
And that leads to the second loss: lawyers. Lawyers will be unnecessary in a system where the accused has no way of defence. We’ll just have “people’s tribunals” and kangaroo courts to make it look good. Why spend a lot of time studying law–especially criminal law–when the deck is stacked most times going in?
But in our post-modern world, people have the idea that two contradictory things can be true at the same time. The law students at Harvard and elsewhere who study the law one minute and protest the right to counsel the next are in for a rude awakening when the cognitive dissonance hits the wall.