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Garry W. Jenkins (from left), Anthony Niedwiecki, Robert K. Vischer
Garry W. Jenkins (from left), Anthony Niedwiecki, Robert K. Vischer

Bar Buzz: Deans blast insurrection, bad-faith lawyers

A group of 157 law school deans, including three from Minnesota, have jointly condemned the insurrectionists who invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and the lawyers who helped stoke their fury.

The Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s Anthony Niedwiecki, the University of Minnesota Law School’s Garry W. Jenkins and the University of St. Thomas School of Law’s Robert K. Vischer all signed the joint statement.

They joined the deans of law schools at places as varied as Pepperdine University, Howard University and Yale University, among many others nationwide, in reasserting the legal profession’s commitment to the rule of law.

“On rare occasions, despite our differing situations and views, that obligation requires us to speak as one to defend the fundamental commitments of our profession,” the statement reads. “This is such a moment.”

The letter calls the attack on the U.S. Capitol “an assault on democracy” and says the mob’s efforts to disrupt certification of the 2020 election betrayed core values undergirding the U.S. Constitution.

While lauding judges and lawyers who have worked in good faith, the document censures lawyers who took part in a bad-faith legal push to overturn the 2020 presidential election’s results.

“We recognize with dismay and sorrow that some lawyers challenged the outcome of the election with claims that they did not support with facts or evidence,” it says. “This betrayed the values of our profession.”

The letter mentions no attorneys’ names. But it says that lawyers who pursue legal action must ground them in good-faith claims and solid facts and evidence. They must demonstrate respect for the legal profession, the letter says.

“Only then can lawyers fulfill their responsibilities as lawyers and public citizens to promote public confidence in the rule of law and the justice system — duties that extend to all professional activities, whether lawyers are representing a client or not,” the letter says.

The deans’ joint letter concludes with a call for a “sustained effort” by legal educators and practitioners to repair America’s democratic institutions.

One day after the tumult at the U.S. Capitol, Mitchell Hamline’s Niedwiecki expressed similar sentiments in an email to students.

“I hope you realize your personal role in rebuilding our democracy,” he wrote, “finding ways to foster reasoned public discourse; and protecting the rule of law.”

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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