- As recently as 12 years ago, professors from 137 law
schools signed a joint letter that blamed the US Supreme Court for wrongly
interfering in the 2000 presidential election. (The Court stopped the vote
count in Florida, throwing the election to Bush.) Today, the same law professors
would probably not think it wise or even 'feasible' to take collective
- This is a great shame. Citizens need any intellectual
help they can get when it comes to defending the Constitution. Today,
the great World Government is doing all it can to overthrow that United
States, mostly from within, and we should be able to count on members of
the professions to help society.
- In 2005, when the late Jane Jacobs was in her ninety-first
year, she wrote a superb book called "Dark Age Ahead." She claimed
that there are five things we must do quickly if we are to avoid a dark
- One of the five is to revitalize the ethics of the professions.
I believe this can be done both by members of the professions and by onlookers.
- This article is about the academic law profession. Its
members are not quite the same as 'the legal profession.' Most of them
don't argue cases in court and don't have to worry about billing their
clients. To whom then are they answerable? If paid by a public university
they are answerable to the public. In general, they are answerable to
students, alumni, and the judicial system.
- Fortunately, each of the thousands of law professors
is unshielded by the kind of off-putting 'badge of authority' that keeps
us away from DOJ persons or governmental military types, or even our local
police. The typical academic is someone you can talk to and her phone
line can be reached through the university switchboard. You can ask a simple
question such as "What should we be doing now about the Appeals Court's
outrageous dismissal of Gallop v Cheney, which had the potential to 'resolve'
- A rather more pugnacious approach would be to write to
your Alumni Relations office (used to be called the Alumni office
there's a big difference there). Inquire about the salaries of the law
professors, and particularly the dean of the law school. Naturally, in
a public university the salaries are public information. If you find an
unnecessarily high pay for deans, you might write back to the Alumni Relations
office and ask for the justification.
- Why would a law dean get a very high salary? He or she
has to hire and fire staff, set standards for admission of students, and
determine the curriculum. But there are committees to share those burdens.
Granted, the dean may have to take some flack regarding, for example, plagiarism
by a student or dissidence by a (low-level) faculty member. But even here
the outcome is predictable: the plagiarizing episode will be swept under
the rug; the dissident will be quietly ostracized.
- Law professor Paul Caron at Cincinnati found in 2006
that deans at the top law schools were receiving an average salary of $460,
000. That's like being paid a thousand dollars every day at breakfast,
and then having ninety-five thousand extra put under the Christmas tree
(which can pay the taxes on the $365k). Why are his/her services worth
that much? If the school lowered the pay wouldn't they still get good candidates?
- I speculate that the pay is high because it would be
dangerous to have a low-paid guy or gal sitting in the wood-paneled, judge-portrait-lined
dean's office. He or she might be tripped up by a reporter into saying
something like "The Constitution is our sine qua non," or "Long
live the Founding Fathers!" And we can't have that, post 9/11, can
- Universities need people who can be counted on to go
with the flow. By go with the flow I mean such things as go with Homeland
Security, or go with whatever spin the president of the US is putting on
international law at the moment. For persons too young to remember: a quite
different approach was normal for universities in the past. Governments
rightly worried that academics would spew forth high principle and offer
vehement criticism of any unconstitutional moves. It is only lately that
anyone would suggest that the university's mission is to protect the government.
- Back to the problem of the high salaries for deans.
My training as a political scientist disposes me to skepticism. I hypothesize
that the purpose of the million-dollars-every-two-years salary is a way
of zipping the lips of the dean. They ain't gonna sign no protest letters
about Gore v Bush, or Kelo v New London, or whatever the latest violation
of the Constitution happens to be, right? Would you yourself give up that
kind of money?
- Additionally, the dean's pay may create a barrier to
constitutional-type action by lower faculty members. They are aware of
the dean's paycheck; this will effectively inhibit them from trying to
recruit his assistance. At the same time they will feel more anxious to
make statements even as individuals, recognizing that they could thereby
jeopardize the dean's throne.
- All I can say is, if you want our Constitution to be
protected, don't just look at what Congresspersons are doing or at what
the Supreme Court is doing. Look into the legal profession. As part of
revitalizing the ethics of the professions, recognize that it is scandalous
that law professors are not speaking out as they should, particularly about
- I hope I have not conveyed that the professors' personal
calculation on a day-to-day basis is a monetary one. No, it is much more
subtle; it is emotional. And, as is always the case with the professions,
it entails a (kneejerk) closing of ranks. The remedy, it would appear,
has to do with changing the carrots and changing the sticks. This article
mentioned but one of the carrots.
- Mary W Maxwell, PhD, can be reached at credosbooks.com