“Welcome Consequences”: Hogan Lovells Fires Partner for Voicing Her Views on the Dobbs Decision

In a column in the Wall Street Journal, Robin Keller, a partner at Hogan Lovells, wrote about being fired from the firm after a distinguished career of 44 years. Keller was not fired for intermingling funds or violating confidentiality of clients. She was fired because she exercised free speech in an internal meeting on the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. After Keller expressed her support for the opinion and concern about higher rates of abortions in the black community, a participant complained that she could not breathe and others called her a racist. She was later suspended and reportedly fired.

What is striking about this controversy is that there is not a great deal of disagreement on what was said at the meeting. Take Above the Law, which Keller references in her column. The site has become one of the most vocal anti-free speech sites on the Internet. It recently even defended the virtual elimination of conservative and libertarian faculty at universities as commendable.

In a column entitled “White Counsel At Biglaw Firm Spreads ‘Inappropriate And Offensive’ Theories About Abortion, Gets Suspended,” Kathryn Rubino celebrated the “welcome consequences” for people who share dissenting or unpopular views on such subjects. Rubino expressed disbelief that “a white partner who attended HoLove’s women’s meeting felt it appropriate to chime in with her support of the Dobbs decision.”

Lawyers at the firm demanded the firing of Keller and said that they were “traumatized” by having to hear someone defend the decision on a call to allow people to discuss the decision.

Let’s repeat that again . . . these are lawyers who were traumatized because a colleague expressed a dissenting view of abortion, a view held by millions of other Americans as well as many judges and justices. It is a view that has been expressed widely in the media, including by African-American and female commentators.

I can understand how such arguments can insult or enrage others. Pro-life lawyers can also be deeply offended on the other side by pro-choice arguments. Abortion is an area that has torn apart this country for generations. The addition of race only magnifies the passion and anger in such discussions. However, this is an area that raises difficult constitutional, social, racial, economic, and gender issues.

Yet, rather than engage Keller on why they believe that she is wrong, these lawyers asked her to leave the call and then pushed for her to be fired for expressing her views. As we have seen on college campuses, it has become commonplace to seek to silence others rather than to engage them in such debates.

As Keller wrote, “I was invited to participate in what was billed as a ‘safe space’ for women at the firm to discuss the decision. It might have been a safe space for some, but it wasn’t safe for me.”

She recounts how “Three weeks later I received a letter stating that the firm had concluded that my reference to comments labeling black abortion rates genocide was a violation of the antiharassment policy.”

The firm adopted the usual “we support free speech but …” rationalization:

“Firm leaders promptly reached out to the firm community to express their regret about the pain and upset that this has caused our community. We appreciate that this was brought to our attention and we are treating this matter seriously. While we encourage members of our community to engage in frank, candid discussion, we expect all discussion in our place of work, or in settings sponsored by the firm, to uphold our values of inclusivity, respect for diverse members of our community, and non-discrimination.”

We have seen corporations joining a campaign targeting Twitter over the plan of Elon Musk to restore free speech protections on the site. However, this is a law firm yielding to demands to silence a colleague for expressing a dissenting view on Dobbs and the impact of abortion in an internal meeting on the decision. To state opposing views in a forum on the case is now considered harmful and harassing — and a basis for termination.

That is certainly a “consequence” but it is hardly “welcomed” if you have a modicum of concern for free speech values. Private firms and companies are obviously given a wider leeway in the limitation of free speech rights. As I have previously written, workers do not have a legal right to protest or display political symbols in the workplace.

For years, anti-free-speech figures have dismissed objections to social media censorship by stressing that the First Amendment applies only to the government, not private companies. The distinction was always a dishonest effort to evade the implications of speech controls, whether implemented by the government or corporations. The First Amendment was never the exclusive definition of free speech. Free speech is viewed by many of us as a human right; the First Amendment only deals with one source for limiting it. Free speech can be undermined by private corporations as well as government agencies.

Yet, we have seen reporters and lawyers rally to the cause of censorship or speech controls in recent years. It is the subject of my recent publication in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. The article entitled “Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States.

That alarming trend is no more evident than lawyers saying that they “cannot breathe” in the presence of the exercise of free speech.

 

125 thoughts on ““Welcome Consequences”: Hogan Lovells Fires Partner for Voicing Her Views on the Dobbs Decision”

  1. I appreciate DoubleDutch’s confusion. The pro choice individual’s statements about a fetus being a random bag of cells is about as ignorant a statement as I have heard recently. Obviously an uneducated progressive.
    That was life 3.5 billion years ago and we have progressed a little since that time. I guess she had never heard of DNA and the complex life forms that start from the first cell division with a plan as to what it’s going to be. Unrestrained growth with no real plan is called cancer or carcinoma and an intact immune system will attack and destroy it because it has no function and destroys useful living cells and steals their nutrition and causes their death and the eventual death of the whole organism. I am sure DoubleDutch understands this but it might be useful in conversations during future encounters of the strange kind. In fact you might regard pro choice as like a cancer since it indiscriminately destroys human life. Better to think and plan and control conception rather than act as a destroyer of lives with emotional distress, guilt and remorse. I was pro choice until I assisted in performing an abortion. Then I grew up and started using my brain in an adult fashion.
    I hope Robin Keller takes her former firm to the proverbial cleaners. Revenge is a dish best served cold as the depths of space and especially accompanied by a large cash payout.

    1. GEB,
      When I read about people saying, ” . . . a fetus being a random bag of cells . . . ” they clearly did not learn anything in basic biology class.
      And they claim to be the party of “science.”

  2. A women’s choice to have an abortion is her demon or bright light alone. A racist law firm that supports genocide is another matter — and I would clearly avoid counsel of attorneys who catch the vapors because the holding of a court case is discussed and supported.

  3. There are plenty of good jobs out there for her and maybe she should start her own firm. Good riddance. I would not want to work for or with these people.

  4. America’s descent into fascism gathers pace and those driving it are not on the right but on the left. The moral preeners and hothouse flowers who “can’t breathe” when they hear a contrary opinion or stand the notion that someone, somewhere thinks differently therefore should be fired and shunned. What happened to the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”? What happened to the First Amendment? This malignancy is the product of raising generations of kids taught to hate their country, their history, and today, the color of their skin and their heteronormativity.

  5. In her article, she describes herself as a “retired equity partner” who still provides some advice to clients. While this does not make what the firm did right, the fact that she had already retired, perhaps many years ago, casts it in a somewhat different light.

    1. It most certainly does not “cast(s) it in a somewhat different light.” If anything, her years of service to the company should lend some weight to what she had to say. We used to value experience and earned wisdom. Now it seems we only value the latest screed to come from the university.

      Perhaps the firm thought it easier to silence her since she was no longer an active member of the firm? If so, shame on them. We ignore and silence our elders to our extreme peril. This kind of censorship is disgusting and should have the bright light of public scrutiny shone all over it.

      Freedom of speech is most certainly a hill to die on.

      1. Though still wrong, the firm no doubt considered the impact on its cohesion of defending a retired partner in the face of complaints by active partners, whether those complaints were warranted or not. They also no doubt had to consider the impact on associates.

        In the end, a law firm is motivated first and foremost to maintain and enhance its ability to work together to generate revenue from clients. The reactions to the discussion appear to have threatened that. The firm’s senior management likely had this in mind as it considered its options. Personally, I would likely have come out the other way, but without knowing more about the risk to firm cohesion it is hard to say definitively.

    2. No it doesn’t. She was removed from her position by petty fascists after 44 years of work. Many people would rightly refused to deal with a firm in thrall to speech deniers.

  6. And these lawyers are supposed to be adults?
    Is that going to be their defense in a trial?
    “Judge I move to dismiss this case against my client, on the fact the prosecution’s case offensive and I cannot breath!”

  7. Lawyers were (are) offended by the expression of opposing views. How do they function as lawyers in court? Obviously the offended should be considered as incompetent if they are unable to put forth a reasoned counter argument.

  8. Thought “herd immunity” is such an appealing place to live. It’s so easy to not have to think for yourself while being protected from criticism by your overlords who have the weapons to attack anyone who tries to rock the boat with facts.

  9. RE:”That alarming trend is no more evident than lawyers saying that they “cannot breathe” in the presence of the exercise of free speech.” They, and others of their ilk, are examples of the putrid effluent from the liberal woke cesspools of schools of law. One may expect that such philosophies and practices will continue to assure the Destitution of the Untied States of Aremica.

  10. Yesterday it was Univerities that intentionally have staff that religously indoctrinate students with ONLY the leftist propaganda. Today we see the results. A law firm set up a phone/video conference for the firms employees (lawyers) to discuss Dobbs. We see the results of the Universities actions. Lawyers suffering physical distress, because they have NEVER had to defend their LEGAL perspective on any subject. They are so used to talking only to people of the same political perspective, they melt when even a single idea in opposition is VOICED.

    People, these are discussions in the theoretical, not policy enforced against the masses.

  11. Maybe companies that are opposed to the First Amendment or Fourth Amendment (computer/internet companies) should be banned from lobbying Congress and state legislatures? Corporations supporting foreign values shouldn’t be writing laws.

    Corporate lobbyists are playing a governing role in most government legislation and many (if not most) corporations oppose First and Fourth Amendment freedoms. Although I disagree with the opinion of the person fired, it’s still Freedom of Speech. The censoring and firing is far more despotic.

    These types of corporations support foreign style authoritarianism, including censorship. Why should they be allowed to write legislation in our government? This concept is less radical than the logic behind the “Citizens United” ruling.

  12. What Hogan Lovells did was pure unadulterated persecution.

    PERSECUTE
    Merriam-Webster: To harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief.

    Cambridge: To treat someone unfairly or cruelly over a long period of time because of their race, religion, or political beliefs, or to annoy someone by refusing to leave them alone.

    Oxford: Subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of their race or political or religious beliefs.

    MacMillion: To treat someone extremely badly, or to refuse them equal rights, especially because of their race, religion, or political beliefs.

    Robin Keller should find a way to sue Hogan Lovells for everything they’ve got.

  13. I think that the person that “could not breath” should have her name revealed so we can all know who to never talk to and firms will know who not to hire in the future.

    Words are violence…say the people that support actual riots, attacking Justices, bombing right to life centers and other “non-violent” actions.

    This is life in Doublestandardstan in the year 1984.

    1. should have her name revealed so we can all know who to never talk to and firms will know who not to hire in the future.

      There are lots of law firms. If I were using this firm, I would find a new one, and ask for a refund, for incompetent representation. Even if I were a leftist, I wouldn’t want to be represented by a firm that cannot even discuss a SCOTUS decision, without having to fire a long term lawyer.

      I did have some input into hiring Agronomy staff, and recruited out of MizzU. That ended when the students took over the University and the Adults refused to adult. The Placement coordinator talked to me personally trying to “explain” why the students desires are so important. I said i require competence, not woke. We haven’t hired a grad since. MizzU has never come to us to explain how they have resumed control of the University.

  14. This scares the daylights out of me. So happy I left the profession in time to enjoy another one. As someone who grew up during the hottest days of the Cold War, it would have been inconceivable for such a thing to happen in America at that time. We are toast.

  15. This is truly sad. The country appears to be on the path to real authoritarianism, not thee faux brand bandied about the last few years..

  16. I hope they rushed all those emergency cases who “couldn’t breath” to the hospital. I mean, if it’s a real disorder, it should be treated, right?

  17. I wish Turley would have reported what, if anything, the fired lawyer intends to do. Seems to me that she may have grounds to sue the firm for wrongful termination, age discrimination (44 years with the company suggests she is 65 or older), and possible other claims. Chances are she has filed something and the company is just contemplating how much it should settle the case for. They would rather sell their conscience than try to defend it.

  18. I used to believe that 65% of the country had brains.

    It is obvious that I was wildly optimistic.

    It seems that a majority of the country embraces lefty ideals of authoritarianism and censorship.

    While passions aren’t close to 1864 levels, more people (on both sides) are open to some kind of split.

    1. The split is certainly evident in Colorado where, but for the mountain resort communities, the areas outside the Front Range line from Wyoming to New Mexico are solidly red. Cities v. countryside.

  19. I suspect that when people seek to silence those they disagree with on issues like abortion, it is because they cannot face the truth of their own consciences convicting them. Whether they admit it or not, a dissenting opinion opens their eyes to their own culpability in the murder of the unborn. The only way to avoid the accompanying guilt is to silence those who bring it to the surface.

    1. You are right, Laura. Another way to avoid guilt is to deny that the baby is human. At our daughter’s wedding , a strong pro choice friend of my wife (who in opposition is pro life) addressed me with the statement that a woman is not pregnant with a human being. Although I try to avoid discussions with people with rigid opinions and the venue was inappropriate, I could not resist responding, She had 3 kids, so I asked her when she was pregnant with her son whether she was ‘actually’ pregnant with a canine or a zebra? She answered that I did not understand: a foetus is just a bag of random cells. I will not bother you with the rest of the ‘conversation’, but this shows an example of putting one’s conscience to rest by dehumanizing the foetus. Converstaions with people like that are futile.

      1. What an odd topic for conversation at a wedding! Absolutely rude. I can look at this issue from both sides as when I was young I made a choice that I regret to this day. Granted, I have a wonderful life with a loving husband a beautiful daughter, a handsome son-in-law and a grand child on the way. And if I had not made the choice I did in my 20s my life would be much different. But who can say it would not have been as good as it is now? I find it interesting that pro choicers always assume a baby will ruin their lives. When I bring up my experience, and how deeply it affected me, pro choicer’s can only respond by calling me a hypocrite, rather than acknowledging or respecting my personal experience. There is no debate, no reasonable conversation possible exploring the realities of abortion on both the unborn and the woman who has an abortion with those who are actually not pro choice at all, since in their minds abortion is the only choice. I used to never share my story for privacy reasons, but sometimes I do if I think it might get through to someone how very wrong abortion is for both the unborn and women who get them.

        1. “I find it interesting that pro choicers always assume a baby will ruin their lives.”

          More interesting is how anti-abortionists compel others to accept their notion of a “good” life.

    2. “Whether they admit it or not, a dissenting opinion opens their eyes to their own culpability in the murder of the unborn.”

      Whether they admit it or not, anti-abortionists play games with words by calling a fetus the “unborn.”

      And that sleight of hand has an evil purpose: To evade the fact that they treat a living woman as a brood mare.

      1. Using extreme language only turns off the very people you’re trying to convince. Calling a fetus a baby or a human being and referring to abortion as murder or genocide won’t help you win anyone over to your cause. It may make you acceptable to like-minded extremists, but if you’re truly trying to win converts to your side, you have to come across as reasonable and rational, not as some hyperbolic nut.

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