“None of this would have happened if I just said I loved books like White Fragility, and I’m a fan of Bill de Blasio’s proposals for changing New York City public schools, and I planned to vote for Maya Wiley for mayor. The reason they went after me is because I have a different point of view,” she said…
“I am very open about what I stand for. I am pro-integration. I am pro-diversity. And also I reject the narrative that white parents are to blame for the failures of our school system. I object to the mayor’s proposal to get rid of specialized admissions tests to schools like Stuyvesant. And I believe that racial essentialism is racist and should not be taught in school.”
There is no reason why a LAS lawyer cannot oppose such material in school and still represent all LAS clients zealously. Indeed, Maron appears to have had an unblemished record. Yet, her comments led to a 2019 complaint from the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid Caucus and Attorneys of Color of Legal Aid. She was cleared in early 2020.
Then she wrote a column for the New York Post criticizing anti-bias training and how difficult such efforts were making it for many to stay in the public schools:
“We all want a well-integrated, high-quality public-school system. Parents have the right to demand an education that prepares their children to meet or exceed grade-level expectations, which in America often lag other countries.
Those who yell the loudest about integration should stop the accusations against those who think or speak differently than they do about the shared goal of integrated, quality schools — and find ways to work together.”
That led to a furious response from fellow lawyers who denounced her as a vehement racist. The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid Caucus issued a lengthy statement that declared “Maud is racist, and openly so.” They said Maron “is one of many charlatans who took this job not out of a desire to make a difference, but for purposes of self-imaging.”
The full statement can be read here.
The statement is in my view unfair and unsupported. It could also be defamatory, though a court would likely find this protected as opinion.
Of course, the impact of such letters is to intimidate anyone else from uttering dissenting views. Few young lawyers would risk being tagged as a racist — a career ending event. We have seen the same campaign of intimidation on college campuses. Even objecting the 1619 project being taught in public schools can lead to calls for termination. This growing intolerance for free speech has even reached law schools, as discussed in a column this week.
It did not stop there.
Four lawyers wrote a piece calling Maron an “anti-integration activist.” Rigodis Appling, Diana Nevins, Olayemi Olurin & Jason Wu wrote:
These anti-integration advocates hold an outsized influence over education policy, occupying critical seats on their local community education councils….”
Calling her a “segregationist, the lawyers declare:
“This legacy of anti-Black racism and logic lives on. White mothers fought to uphold Jim Crow—they saw their moral authority derive from protecting their white children from the racial threat of integration. While people like Maud Maron seemingly couch their arguments against school integration in a thin veil of parental concern, they remain on the wrong side of history.”
The letter could also be the subject of a defamation action. They outright call her a racist and a segregationist. The writing is again close to the line of fact and opinion for defamation purposes.
One lawyer who was not intimidated was Maron’s former supervisor James Chubinsky, who is quoted by Weiss as saying “Any suggestion that she was anything other than a top-flight lawyer that the Legal Aid Society should be damn proud to have on their staff is a crock.”
Her complaint alleges hostile workplace claims (Count 1, 2,) and constructive termination (Count 3). The latter claim may be tough since she alleges that “Ms. Maron is currently promised a return from sabbatical pursuant to § 18.104.22.168.2 of the agreement, but The Legal Aid Society has made it impossible for her to do so.” A court could be looking for an exit ramp and such nuance could give it an easy way of out of such a claim.
The hostile workplace and discrimination claims are particularly interesting due to the intermixing of fact and opinion statements. Again, a court could be tempted to call it all opinion and note that Maron assumed a public persona in her writings. However, she alleges that the problems arose before she published her column.
We will be watching the case closely.