We have been discussing the effort of University of Denver law professor Nancy Leong to have the Illinois bar punish an anonymous poster called “Dybbuk” who criticized her on a blog as well as other female law professors. Now, University of Chicago Professor Brian Leiter (right) has added a rather bizarre twist to this story on his blog. Professor Leiter says that Professor Paul F. Campos (left) has threatened him not to reveal the identity of the poster targeting Nancy Leong with the disclosure of unspecified embarrassing information on Leiter. [Update: Professor Campos has responded]
Leiter published the following e-mail that he says came from Campos:
From: Paul F Campos [mailto:paul.campos@Colorado.EDU]
Sent: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 11:03 AM
To: Leiter, Brian
I have been asked by somebody who has passed on (unsolicited) some potentially very embarrassing personal information about you to me, regarding your activities in cyberspace and some related goings-on in the real world, to make this information public, should you choose to “out” Dybbuk.
Leiter has had a history of angry exchanges with Campos, who he accused of supporting cyber-harassment and sexism.
This is a very serious allegation and there is no confirmation that Campos sent the email or that it was not meant sent in jest or for ironic emphasis. Leiter has raised the question of possible criminal elements of blackmail or intimidation or extortion. He later notes, as suggested by a supporter, that the email could contravene the following statutory provision: “A person commits intimidation when, with intent to cause another to perform or to omit the performance of any act, he or she communicates to another, directly or indirectly by any means, a threat to perform without lawful authority any of the following acts…(3) Expose any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule….”
He notes that there is no evidence that Dybbuk put up Campos to make the veiled threat. That could become a matter of inquiry for the bar. It would be an ironic twist since some of us have been critical of the complaint as threatening free speech values. However, he also says that a person posting under the name Dybbuk stated that “I had no prior knowledge of Paul Campos’s alleged [sic] email to Brian Leiter, and do not approve of it.”
I have not see a response from Campos. If this was meant as a threat and shown to have been sent by Campos, it could raise serious ethical questions for him with his own bar and with his faculty. One can debate the criminality of the communication, but it certainly contravenes principles of ethical and professional conduct to threaten people with embarrassing disclosures if they make information public. While there is a basis to criticize the stripping of anonymity in such a case, it is not a crime for Leiter to do so and, since it is based on public information, it is not likely a violation of privacy laws. Conversely, this alleged threat is tied to an ongoing ethics complaint and seeking to force silence through the threat of harmful or embarrassing disclosures. Of course, Campos could argue that he is only demonstrating the unfair nature of Leiter’s very public debate over whether to “out” the poster in the Leong dispute.
What do you think?
Kudos: John Banzhaf