I find it interesting that many on the left, so intent on maintaining their anti-market narratives, distort reality so badly that black is white and up is down–and “government” is “corporations.”
I’ve highlighted this before when discussing the misdirected criticisms (and solutions) of self-described privacy advocates who point the finger at Google when really they should be concerned about the government.
Now comes Brian Leiter referring us to an article on “Corporate Attacks on Law School Clinics.” That’s the title of his post which contains nothing more than a heated admonition to read a linked article, so the title says it all: Corporations are attacking law school clinics (and this is a huge problem that should concern everyone). And I have no doubt many corporations are upset with many law school clinics. But what’s so fascinating is how, when you click through to the article, you discover that the actual attacks on law school clinics are, in every single example adduced in the story, actually emanating from governments. It’s pretty amazing. Here are the relevant snippets from each example in the article, but I recommend reading the whole thing:
In spring 2010, a law-clinic lawsuit against a $4 billion poultry company triggered a legislative effort to withhold state funds from the University of Maryland unless its law school provided the legislature with sensitive information about clinic clients and case activities.
The attack plan included the introduction of legislation that would forfeit all state funding if a university offered certain types of law-clinic courses.
The first occurred in 1968 at the University of Mississippi, where the appointments of two untenured professors were terminated following complaints that their new clinical program participated in a desegregation lawsuit.
In efforts to terminate the program, clinic opponents sponsored a bill in the legislature to withdraw state funding for the entire law school.
In 1993, then-governor Edwin Edwards was so upset at statements the clinic’s director made that the governor threatened to deny financial assistance to state residents attending the university and to prohibit Tulane medical students from working in any state hospital unless the director was fired.
A few years later, the clinic’s success in representing a low-income, minority community opposed to a proposed chemical plant led then-governor Mike Foster and business interests to threaten to revoke Tulane’s tax-exempt status and deny it access to state education trust-fund money, to organize an economic boycott of Tulane, and to refuse to hire its graduates.
When the university still refused to terminate the course, clinic opponents successfully persuaded the Louisiana Supreme Court to impose restrictions on whom law school clinics can assist and what kinds of representation students can provide.
When state legislators expressed disapproval of a law school clinic’s representation of citizens concerned about a proposed highway, university officials began charging the clinic for the university’s overhead costs, prevented it from approaching funders unless it agreed to avoid certain cases that might upset legislators, and pressed it to separate from the school and move off campus.
The clinical program at Rutgers University is defending itself against a lawsuit brought by a developer, who was defeated in a clinic case and is now seeking to use the state’s public records law to gain access to internal clinic case files that would otherwise be beyond the reach of a party to a lawsuit
A dispute in Michigan this past winter demonstrates that attacks also can occur when students get in the way of powerful government interests. The district attorney in Detroit, upset with the efforts of a University of Michigan innocence clinic to exonerate a man it alleged was wrongfully imprisoned for ten years, sought to force the students to testify at trial against their client, an unprecedented effort to interfere in the students’ attorneyclient relationship.
Perdue persuaded legislators to attach a rider to the university’s appropriations that conditioned $750,000 in funding on submission of a report detailing clinic cases, clients, expenditures, and funding, much of which is confidential information.
An even harsher attack occurred in Louisiana this past spring, where the Louisiana Chemical Association (LCA) pushed for legislation, subject to narrow exceptions, that would forfeit all state funds going to any university, public or private, whose clinics brought or defended a lawsuit against a government agency, represented anyone seeking monetary damages, or raised state constitutional claims. The bill also would have made clinic courses at the state’s four law schools subject to oversight by legislative commerce committees.
This isn’t cherry-picking. Unless I made a mistake, this is every single example of “attacks on law school clinics” in the article. And every single one involves government actions or the threat of government actions. Wow. How on earth could anyone read this article and feel comfortable calling this a problem of corporations? Don’t get me wrong–I understand that there are often corporate interests behind these actions, spurring them on. But to call this a “corporate” problem rather than a “government” problem–with the implicit call for government to do something about the problem–is to fail so utterly to understand the problems of government power that it boggles the mind.
Like Brian Leiter, I find this list troubling. I am appalled at how much inappropriate government interference this represents. But it is simply delusional to call this a problem of corporations. You want to fix the problem? Rein in the ability of governments to interfere to thoroughly with private life that special interests don’t have access to such a powerful and, often, invincible bludgeon.