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
45 thoughts on “University of Chicago Professor Accuses Colorado Law Professor Of Threatening Him With Embarrassing Disclosures in Leong Controversy”
According to the New York State Bar website, University of Chicago Professor Brian Leiter TODAY reactivated his license to practice in that state, inactive from approximately 1989 until today, October 9, 2014,
He is now entitled to refer to himself as “lawyer”..
He was NOT so entitled when he authored the referenced blog posts and emails.
This is a typical example of an abusive, threatening email from Brian Leiter (and if this isn’t “intimidation” what is?):
“From: “Leiter, Brian”
Date: February 20, 2014 at 12:21:34 PM EST
To: “‘email@example.com’ ”
Grow up, Noelle. You better disappear that vandalism quickly. I’m a lawyer, my wife is a lawyer, and most importantly, one of my best and oldest friend is a lawyer, and you don’t want to get to know him. I’ll also be happy to write about how you write your own Wiki bio under a pseudonym. But, seriously, stop making this personal, or you won’t like how it ends.”
(; bold italics added for emphasis.)
Note however, that the sender in question, Brian Leiter, is not (and never has been) admitted to practice law in any jurisdiction. (Leiter CV (.)
The claim to be a “lawyer” by one not licensed as such to appear in court is untruthful, unethical and improper. (See, e.g., District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Ethics Opinion 16-05, issued June 17, 2005, foot note 1 [FN]
Brian Leiter is the one sending abusive and threatening emails to colleagues (in this case even threatening to do the very thing he accused Paul Campos of if “Nicole” did not take down a blog post” “out” her on his blog as (allegedly) the anonymous author of her own Wikipedia page. To say nothing of misrepresenting his professional credentials (as he has also done on his blog, calling himself “an experienced lawyer”. ()
FN – “”[T]he words `lawyer’ and `attorney’ are synonymous, and hence anyone advertising himself as a lawyer holds himself out to be an attorney, attorney at law, or counselor at law.” In re Page, 257 S.W.2d 679, 684 (Mo.1953) (quoting People ex rel. Colorado Bar Ass’n v. Taylor, 56 Colo. 441, 138 P. 762, 763 (Colo.1914)); see also Merrick v. American Security & Trust Co., 71 App. D.C. 72, 74 107 F.2d 271, 273 (1939). It has recently been held that a law school graduate is not a lawyer because neither the commonly accepted meaning of the term nor its technical definition allow such usage. Binkley v. People, 716 P.2d 1111, 1113-14 (Colo.1986). The court held that both the commonly accepted meaning of “lawyer” and its technical definition denote a person licensed to practice law. Id. The argument that the term “lawyer” includes unlicensed law school graduates was specifically rejected. In the words of the court:
“The common definition of “lawyer” is “a specialist in or a practitioner of law “that is, one whose profession “is to conduct lawsuits for clients or to advise as to the prosecution or defense of lawsuits or as to legal rights and obligations in other matters.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1280 (1971). As long ago as 1908 this court observed that the term “lawyer” is generally understood to refer to a professional person “legally authorized to appear for and represent clients who are parties to causes in courts of record.” People ex. rel. Colorado Bar Association v. Erbaugh, 42 Colo. 480, 487-88, 94 P. 349, 352 (1908).”
This commonly accepted meaning of the term refutes the notion that a lawyer is anyone who has studied law, even though he or she may not have fulfilled the qualifications necessary to engage in the practice of law.” (Ibid.)
Leitner has a credibility problem: the literally dozens of on-line smears and vendettas he have carried out against all of his detractors and critics, no matter how insignificant the critic or the criticism – including his public and private bludgeoning of the baby lawyer from Nevada for having the temerity to question him (“since you have never practiced law, how do you know what lawyers think?”) — going to far as to humiliate the young man on his blog as well as writing the Nevada lawyer and threatening to copy his correspondence “to your senior partners”. Leitner is constantly embroiled in one academic feud or another and has attacked some very well respected law professors with blogs. Therefore, any ethics complaint by Leitner should be viewed with suspicion.
The corollary to “BW”s ‘observation’ that the Leiter-haters come out and claim anonymous comments are Leiter in Leiter-related threads is that in Leiter-related threads the Leiter sock-puppets come out to defend the Leiter position.
It’d say it’s a bit of a chicken/egg thing, but I don’t believe that. The Leiter sock-puppets come first.
Jeebus, project much?
(we’ve known for a long time that the answer to this question is ‘yes’)
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