“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. “Lawyer fired for agreeing with Supreme Court” ! It’s not clear that the law firm is required to offer freedom of speech. It’s clear that “safe space” is a danger sign, translated, “we will protect you from things you don’t want to hear.”

  2. Good grief. Turley sure loves to portray these incidents with half truths and intentionally leaving out context.

    What this lady did was awful and those who were there understood why it was. Turley’s telling of the incident barely gives it any justice. Free speech HAS consequences. Exercising it does pose it’s perils and that is a big part of it. Here is WHY this was bad. The column in Above the law explains why it was bad. Turley as usual conveniently left it out in order to sow rage about anti-free speech tropes he likes to peddle. Context matters.

    “ Reaction to the incident from insiders at the firm reflects how troubling it was. One person described being “traumatized and hurt,” saying, “It was unreal.” Another was more blunt: “A woman needs to be fired.”

    I’m unlikely to be as eloquent as those who ended Keller’s tirade in the moment, but let’s take a beat to break down why this argument is so harmful. Professor SaraEllen Strongman notes that Black feminists have long understood the importance of reproductive freedom:

    Black feminists still fiercely advocated for the right to abortion because they understood the importance of bodily autonomy, especially when it comes to reproduction.

    Why? Because abortion had long been a strategy of survival and resistance for Black women. Historians have revealed that abortion even enabled some semblance of self-determination during slavery. Enslaved women could thwart enslavers’ ability to use their children as chattel to generate profit with birth control and abortion. Strongman further places support for choice in historical context pointing out Shirley Chisholm’s support:

    Instead Chisholm argued that reproductive choice enabled women and their families to achieve economic prosperity and ensure that the next generation of Black children were “reared amid love and stability, and educated to the limit of their ability.”

    Chisholm argued that safe, legal abortion was a matter of survival, citing a study by Edwin M. Gold that found 49 percent of the deaths of pregnant Black women were caused by botched abortions. Chisholm also emphasized that poor women and women of color were then, as they are today, the least likely to be able to access quality medical care, including abortion.

    And in 1989, Donna Brazile, along with other Black women leaders, authored “We Remember: African American Women for Reproductive Freedom” which began:

    “Choice is the essence of freedom. It’s what we African Americans have struggled for all these years. The right to choose where we would sit on a bus. The right to vote. The right for each of us to select our own paths, to dream and reach for our dreams. The right to choose how we would or would not live our lives.”

    …” Language like that used in the HoLove meeting “considers Blackwomen incapable of making their own reproductive choices.” And, as Dobbins-Harris notes, similar rhetoric has been called out by Black women. Repeatedly:

    Blackwomen are writing, tweeting, and creating art centering themselves and their agency in their abortion narratives. One Blackwoman author attacked Ben Carson’s harmful genocidal rhetoric writing for Aljazeera America saying, “[t]o use factually incorrect rhetoric to render our healthcare needs and experiences irrelevant is an affront to our dignity.”

    Turley didn’t mention the fact that some women in that zoom meeting who took offense did so for very specific reasons and Turley leaves that out. This was a private organization and they did have a right to fire her for what she said. Exercising freedom of speech does have consequences.

    1. Repeat that diatribe to the Jews of Skokie, Illinois, who saw the US Supreme Court let Nazis march and express their opinion, quite contrary to any interest or feelings of those Jews.
      You will then see that your diatribe is unsupported by law.
      Then maybe you can grow up.

    2. “ Reaction to the incidentThe proper woke response carefully crafted from insiders at the firm reflects how troubling it was. One person described being “traumatized and hurt,”

    1. Who is Svelaz? Hopefully just an opinionated loudmouth and not a lawyer at Hogan Lovells who participated in the conference call.

  3. I am astonished that there is continuing reference to the proposition that only the government is bound by the 1st Amendment.
    The simple answer is that we still have valid Agency and partnership laws, both statutory and common law.
    Where the government enlists – either de facto or de jure- a private corporation to execute its censorship goals, that corporation becomes the agent or even the partner of the government and becomes bound by the 1st Amendment, including but not limited to, damages for its breach.
    The question then becomes whether Congressional legislation trumps liability for breach of a Constitutional Right.
    As to the women lawyers’ feelings being hurt, that issue is laughable.
    Is that what they tell a judge in Court??
    That’s a juvenile position.

  4. “That alarming trend is no more evident than lawyers saying that they “cannot breathe”…”

    Why professor, I’m shocked, shocked that you would deny the unfired lawyers their chance to practice thire George Floyd impression that will win them that sweet gig on COmedy Central.

    Shocking.

  5. So the poor baby couldn’t breath. You want to know about not being able to breath. How about 52 illegal immigrants locked in the back of truck that was left in the hot desert. Excuse me if I lack compassion for some high paid cupcake at a law firm who suffers asphyxiation when confronted with the truth. I’m sure that the cupcake was just scratching her fingernails off on the walls to get out.

    1. Labor (e.g. [catastrophic] [anthropogenic] immigration reform) and human arbitrage… because women and men, couples, lack the dignity of moderation and the agency to comprehend the mystery of sex and conception,human rites are performed for social, redistributive, clinical, political, and fair weather causes. Oh, and go Green with environmental arbitrage, too.

  6. I have read that 40% of abortions performed in the U.S. are done on black women. When blacks are something like 13% of the population. How is that not genocide?

    1. The percent of blacks in the U.S. population has remained fairly consistent for decades. In any case, “genocide” is not something that you do to yourself. If black women choose to have fewer children, so that they can be educated and lead successful lives, rather than having 10 children living in ignorance and squalor as in the terrible past, who are you to deny them that choice?

      1. In any case, “genocide” is not something that you do to yourself

        Strange that you believe the Russians / Chinese / Jews attempted genocide on themselves when they were coerced by Stalin, Mao, Hitler, et al, but then again, you believe children are a burden and should be killed.

        Tell us about the time you advocated for boys being castrated, girls having double mastectomies, and it was all a step towards their having unfettered lives

        “War is peace.
        Freedom is slavery.
        Ignorance is strength.”

        ― George Orwell, 1984

      2. Maybe they could use one of the DOZENS of birth-control?
        Or, are we to assume that they are mindless and totally unable to see farther into the future than 10 minutes?
        Of course, they could always keep their legs closed, I know, I know, not happening.
        That crap infantilizes black women, which says a LOT more about you than it does them.

  7. Whiny sniveling fools.
    They seem to be around every corner of life, but pop-up more so in the supposedly educated.
    The bulbs dim whence they speak.

  8. Have to ask…
    Was there anything else involved in their decision?

    Sounds like this was more of an excuse to remove her, rather than her views.

    The other issue… we don’t know what she said exactly.

    Its one thing to have a differing opinion, but its another depending on how you express it.

    Still, not something to be fired over. Lawyers ‘misspeak’ all the time.

    -G

  9. These types of group conversations were happening all over the place after Hillary lost to Trump in 2016. It was a lunatic sob fest of processing feelings of trauma and “I can’t breathe” idiocy. It was everywhere. Now it is back for round 2 of ‘trauma processing’ with Dobbs decision.

  10. The partner should have said, “I’m offended by YOUR disrespect for MY opinion being freely expressed in our collective ‘safe space’ that YOU have now made ME to feel unsafe in.”

    And, “Oh by the way, I’m suing your lame a$$.”

  11. This comment was blocked:
    What would the reaction be should conservative firms and businesses terminated woke employees? It seems only fair.

  12. “[A] participant complained that she could not breathe , , ,”

    If hearing an opposing opinion causes you to hyperventilate, then you need immediate medical attention. Then years of therapy.

    Destroying a woman’s career, to appease those who are “triggered.” Thank you, academia.

    1. @Sam,

      I would have said that if hearing such a comment forced you to hyperventilate, its a good sign that you may not be cut out to be a lawyer.

      1. @Ian Michael Gumby: “…you may not be cut out to be a” rational person, much less an adult.

        Fixed that for ya. No charge! You’re welcome. 🙂

      2. @Ian Michael Gumby

        You put your finger on it. Good lawyering. Taking the best possible care of the client. Take labor law. The best labor lawyer has the hardest butt and the biggest bladder in the room. How do you get from that to “safe space” and “can’t breathe”? Where are the facts that the culture that fired her delivers better outcomes for clients? Such as the clients she was serving? This writer’s concerns run to both her and them.

  13. Concerning the meeting participant who could not breathe, and the larger speech is violence concept, perhaps a short visit to Ukraine would provide a more accurate view of violence and its impact. But then again, perhaps not. Victimhood and snowflakeism seems to have become embedded in large sections of society.

    1. If you are incapable of listening to a viewpoint at odds to your own then you are not qualified to be a lawyer – PERIOD.

      Hogan Lovells fired the wrong people.

  14. The ‘snowflake’ generations need to be stopped now – in their tracks – before they get any more traction in the most important decision-making decisions of our time — I hope this fired lawyer pursues a court case, since I can’t see how she could lose, and would love to hear the other side line up a cogent, legal, defense. I hope this law firm loses a LOT of clients over this.

    1. Richard Lowe,
      Oh, but they will.
      They will overstep their bounds in the pursuit of wokeness.
      Take a look at the Deerborn MI school board meeting, where hundreds of Muslim parents show up and protested wokeism in their children’s schools.
      This is a group of people who are very protective of their children, their culture, their religion. Mess with their kids, it will not end well.
      Same goes for Asian, Hispanic and more than a few other minority groups.
      We saw it in how they voted in the VA governor race.
      We have seen it in how many school boards have flipped from woke to conservative.
      And that is just the civil way of doing it.
      Leftists push their woke ideology more, dont be surprised when woke board members get beaten to death in a “honor killing.”
      Those who did the act, they will not get prison time. Try to move the venue, and the Muslim community will be incised as seeing it as trying to remove a jury by their peers.
      A jury made up of Muslims, will acquit.

      1. A jury made up of Muslims, will acquit.

        Ive been saying for years, immigrants are our nation’s best hope, that or a an active volcano erupting and gifting California with huge Carbon Dioxide clouds to send them into a hyperventilating panic. Note the left wing Guardian UK news outlet freaking out about CO2. As if the world were about to end because of CO2 emissions being released from a volcano, like that has never happened in history

        Can we just just throw some proverbial virgin into the volcano to appease the gawds? Hillary Clinton need not worry

        Hawaii site that measures global CO2 shuts down after Mauna Loa volcano eruption
        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/30/hawaii-mauna-loa-volcano-eruption-site-measures-global-co2-shuts-down

  15. Perhaps the partner wouldn’t have been fired if she gave fair warning first, before she uttered her opinion: “Trigger warning, what I am about to say may feel like a micro-aggression to some listeners and I apologize in advance.”
    ______________

    No kidding, I’ve been on calls where the “leader” was apologizing left and right for any perceived “microaggressions” and I laughed out loud thinking it was a joke. Then I realized all of these people were completely dead serious. It was the strangest group interaction I’ve ever participated in.

    These easily offended, ridiculous, clownish, self-righteous, oh-so-virtuous, leftist asinine people are literally mentally ill and it is impossible to work around or with them, because now they are everywhere and rising into positions of power over “normal” people. What a mixed up, upside down world these lunatics are creating and forcing the rest of us to endure.

    One solution in my view? Laugh at them, to their faces, even if they are your “boss.” Let them fire you and then sue them.

    1. Perhaps i’ll just but a sticker on my forehead to the effect of “Contents of this mind contain ideas, musings, and deliria that are fetish-sized by the State of CA and elsewhere to cause imaginary harm, imaginary cancer, uncomfortable squirming, questioning of personal nihilistic tendencies, Covid, imaginary violent death, and more imaginary bad things to currently preferred victim groups.”

      Why we have to repeat this stupid history ever so often is getting a bit tiresome. Time to stop these lefty fascists for good.

    2. Mock them. Sue them. Don’t just go along their absurd crap. Anytime a person in leadership apologizes for microaggressions, laugh out loud AT them. They must be mocked relentlessly.

    3. “[I]t is impossible to work around or with them . . .”

      Very astute.

      And it is “impossible” because they are not guided by reason. They are driven by their emotions — and primarily by a single emotion: Fear.

      1. Sam,
        “And it is “impossible” because they are not guided by reason. They are driven by their emotions — and primarily by a single emotion: Fear.”
        That right there.
        They are children whom have not learned to deal with their emotions in a rational or reasonable fashion. They are emotionally stunted. Immature.
        As a kid, we had the saying, sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
        Now, try to have a debate on legal issue at a law firm, and “I cannot breathe!”

        1. “They are children . . .”

          Exactly.

          When a child has a fit, it can be excusable (and even cute). When an “adult” (and a lawyer, no less) has one, it’s time for a tightly fit white coat.

Leave a Reply