No, CUNY’s Graduation Speaker Should Not Be Barred From Practicing Law


Many of us were appalled but not surprised by the virulent speech of CUNY Law grad, Fatima Mousa Mohammed, at the school’s recent commencement. Many schools (and CUNY in particular) have long cultivated the type of extremist rhetoric and views expressed in the speech. While conservatives are barred or booed at graduations, faculty and students regularly invite far left speakers to attack others for their views. (Indeed, I was attacked by Democratic Rep. Susan Wild at my own school’s commencement who made false claims about my past positions.) However, there is now a call for Mohammed to be barred from practice as a lawyer. Such a move would be an assault on free speech and show the very same intolerance and rage that has been condemned in her speech.

NYC council member Inna Vernikov sent a letter last week that said “I ask that should she pass the New York bar, her admission be denied.”  Likewise, the Lawfare Project appealed to the New York Supreme Court, stating, “It’s our belief that a person who has proved themselves to be a bigot is not fit to practice law.”

LawFare added that:

“Mohammed has a history of publicly expressing prejudiced and discriminatory views, specifically demonstrating a profound animosity towards the Jewish community. These views are fundamentally incompatible with the ethical obligations and principles upheld by the legal profession and leave no question that Ms. Mohammed lacks the character and fitness to practice law.”

The group argued that her political views means that  “she lacks the requisite good character to become a member of the New York State Bar or any other state bar.”

I disagree.

Mohammed used what I have called “rage rhetoric,” which is the subject of a book that I am now completing. Her calls for “revolution” and denouncing of law as a tool of white supremacy is par for the course in leftist circles.

However, Democrats have accused the right of the same type of incitement, including President Donald Trump’s January 6th speech (which I also have defended as protected speech).

New York has a history of radical lawyers who have challenged wars and laws for decades. Moreover, as free speech advocates, we are often called to defend those who hold views that we find offensive or wrong.

Mohammed is entitled to hold these views and, as long as she practices in an ethical fashion, she is entitled to represent others. I would take the same position with LawFare if an anti-Israeli majority sought to bar one of its lawyers for holding Zionist views.

Indeed, leftist groups show the same intolerance in regularly seeking to bar those with pro-Israeli views. Many also oppose free speech by blocking or shouting down conservative or libertarian speakers.

Years ago, New York groups moved to prevent Bertrand Russell from teaching at CUNY (at the City College of New York). One of the greatest philosophers of his time, Russell was attacked for being an atheist in 1940.

During the same period, McCarthy and his allies were attacking lawyers who held leftist views or represented blacklisted groups. (Notably, the left has followed this same practice by demanding the disbarment of lawyers who represented those challenging the last election).

We should not return to that period of intolerance and censorship.

When radical lawyers turn to criminal conduct (as shown a couple years ago with a firebombing by two young lawyers), they should be prosecuted. Indeed, many of us were appalled when the Biden Administration gave them generous plea deals.

However, you cannot demand free speech for yourself and your own groups while denying it to others. Mohammad has completed her studies and, if she can pass the bar, she should be allowed to practice law.

42 thoughts on “No, CUNY’s Graduation Speaker Should Not Be Barred From Practicing Law”

  1. I don’t care one bit if Fatima Mousa Mohammed has a degree or a law license, I wouldn’t hire that ignorant social justice fool for anything, and I do mean anything.

  2. From the definition of the Francisco Lobcock book of meaningless wit: The “White Supremacist” are as many as the Abominable Snowman, are commonly used as a target of blame when you’re position is weak, nonexistent or wish to silence your opponent.

  3. § 520.12 Proof of Moral Character

    (a) General. Every applicant for admission to practice must file with a committee on character and fitness appointed by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court affirmations of reputable persons that the applicant possesses the good moral character and general fitness requisite for an attorney- and counselor-at-law as required by section 90 of the Judiciary Law. The number of such affirmations and the qualifications of persons acceptable as affirmants shall be determined by the Appellate Division to which the applicant has been certified.

    (b) Affirmations. The affirmations filed shall state that the applicant is, to the knowledge of the affirmant, a person of good moral character and possesses the general fitness requisite for an attorney- and counselor-at-law and shall set forth in detail the facts upon which such knowledge is based. Such affirmations shall not be conclusive proof as to character and fitness, and the Appellate Division to which the applicant has been certified may inquire further through its committee on character and fitness or otherwise.

    (c) Discretion of Appellate Division. The Appellate Division in each department may adopt for its department such additional procedures for ascertaining the moral character and general fitness of applicants as it may deem proper, which may include submission of a report of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

    Does she have moral character? Can she be trusted to act in front of a court according to the law? Did Avenatti have the moral character to be admitted to the bar? I’m not saying she should be denied entry, but I think the state has the right to question her and document her answers before making a decision. I know that in the past some states required explanations for certain things that appeared on the application request.

    1. Does she have moral character? Can she be trusted to act in front of a court according to the law?

      SM, the great thing about protecting free speech is that she was given a very public forum to begin to answer those questions. It reminds me of Sen. John Kennedy’s examinations of candidates for the bench during confirmation hearings. He’s very good at using their public records to demonstrate just how unfit they are. This law school grad has merely begun establishing that public record much earlier as a baseline for any entity that would care about character. In a culture where moral character and a fidelity to equal justice under the law mattered, she would never have been invited to spew her bigoted worldview. But the fact she was, broadcasts to the world exactly where our culture is today.

      1. “broadcasts to the world exactly where our culture is today.” Unlikely. It does show where some individuals and elements are positioned. And those positions have been around for over 80 years and really have not materially advanced other than in the fascist institutions that seek power through the utilization of such ‘useful idiots’.
        Fatima Mousa Mohammed has the right to her views and those views are not new and she gets an “F” for originality.
        Moreover, her comments speak volumes about CUNY. The fact that CUNY would promote a graduation ceremony as forum for expression of political views demonstrates a total lack of regard for those individuals that have worked hard and spent large sums of money and time at their institution in pursuit of a nonpolitical degree. Shame on CUNY.

        1. And those positions have been around for over 80 years and really have not materially advanced other than in the fascist institutions that seek power through the utilization of such ‘useful idiots’.

          Ex Dem, first of all, congratulations on abandoning the Democratic party. Secondly, I would argue what this graduation speech indicates to the world is just how far the United States fascist institutions have advanced. I have friends that are expats living abroad that are watching the decline of this country wondering where would they flee to if their adopted country followed our path. I tell them they could always return and join the fight. But that’s become an increasingly hard sell. When communism spread throughout the world, the United States and our allies provided a lifeline to those seeking a refuge for the security of their natural rights. But with western regimes increasing their march towards totalitarianism, led by the United States, our attractiveness is fading rapidly.

    2. @SM
      Excellent post.

      Suppose we could apply the same standards that her and her peers have when it comes to conservative speakers coming to campus as guest speakers.
      Here they justify their conduct because they claim that speech which they oppose as ‘triggering’ and just as bad as a violent physical act in terms of causing harm.

      So one could justify baring her from taking the bar because of her hurtful rhetoric that clearly triggered a portion of both the alumni and members of the student body. It was clearly a micro-aggression and there was both intent and mens rhea (guilty mind) in that it was her planned speech. She was not caught up in the moment.

      By their standards… she should be questioned and has shown that she lacks the moral character to be a lawyer.
      As to your Avenatti argument… his transgressions occurred after he was admitted to the bar for many years. One has to ask… what actions prior to taking the bar and being admitted did he do which would show a lack of moral character?


      1. G., I brought up Avenatti to demonstrate how difficult it is to assess moral character. That is why I would ask questions and document the answers rather than close off all consideration.

  4. Interesting. Let’s deprive people of their liberty and livelihood for misgendering someone (who would have ever guessed that would be an actionable verb–or a verb) but vehement anti-Semites like this woman are allowed to pass into a once somewhat honorable profession with merely a “please don’t do that again.”

  5. At what point do we all start playing by the same rules? It seems that the left is constantly imposing its own rules on conservatives, while we insist on following the straight and narrow. No free speech for conservatives; no academic appointments for anyone who misgenders or violates some other arbitrary leftist rule; etc. Do we continue to have a two-tiered system of rules, or do we start giving back in kind? Apparently there is no “higher power” who will intervene in these issues (wouldn’t it be nice to have a Woody Allen “Marshall McLuhan” moment to instantaneously resolve these conflicts). On a battlefield, despite all the theory about war, sometimes you just have to tailor your tactics to the enemy. This may be such a time. That said, this student doesn’t seem to have learned much law at CUNY, so odds are pretty good she’ll fail the bar anyway.

    1. Gio, you are probably right. As a great jurist once said, “the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact”. We will play the the Marquess of Queensbury rules while they play by the rules of the wrestling organizations. We will bow and say sorry while they hit us with a metal folding chair.

  6. She’s a law school graduate, not an attorney. Her graduation speech is 1A protected. However, now that she has very publicly announced her bigotry towards the Jewish community, she has invited greater scrutiny for her views if she is sworn in as an officer of the courts.

    That being said, these Leftist schools function like military academies to churn out warriors for their radical agendas. I predict she’ll parlay her graduation “marketing” speech into a position for political lawfare. She has a political future in the Democratic party.

  7. I hope this malevolent woman knows what Google will do to her chances of getting a job going forward. She will get hired, but the pool of potential firms hiring her has diminished by about 70%.

    1. Sadly you are wrong. Her incendiary views will increase her chances if getting a do nothing job.

      Her views are abhorrent but she should not be punished just because we don’t like what she says. That is a road with a well lit entrance that quickly transforms unto a dark shadowy path with monsters and villains laying in wait.

  8. The problem is that the legal profession is self disciplined. The State Bars do not enforce any ethical standards on their members and they know it.

  9. AOC’s up and coming competition ??? I see a New York Congressional seat in her future. Thank you, Jonathan, for an excellent article.

  10. I would agree that she should not be barred from practicing since she does have the right to free speech.
    That being said, I note that attorneys are being pushed out of firms for practicing in support of the 2nd amendment and disbarment proceedings and the suggestion of disbarment has been alluded to for attorneys defending Mr. Trump and others on the right side of politics.
    However since many people from New York are now becoming former New Yorkers and moving south and southeast, the potential for this lady to build a client base is rapidly shrinking. Also sometimes actually working in the real world tends to modify one’s thinking if one is capable of thinking and problem solving. The jury is still out on this lady’s capability for that.

  11. There are 91 Other BAR Chapters Ms. Fatima Mousa-Mohammed can join and she may take the Multi-State Exam as well to c.y.a..

    92 Bar Associations and Legal Organizations for Attorneys and Law Students. “Passing the bar” is a milestone for lawyers. After earning a Juris Doctor degree, graduates must pass a state-administered bar exam to practice as attorneys. AS of Jan 1, 2020

    In 1925, African-American lawyers formed the National Bar Association at a time when the ABA would not allow them to be members. Currently, the National Bar Association has over 60,000 members and 84 chapters. Since the onset of twenty-first century, the ABA has increased the diversity of its membership and leadership.

    American Bar Association – Wikipedia

    State Bar List

  12. I think that she should by all means be allowed to practice but that her commencement address should be part of her CV and website.

  13. I disagree. A lawyer is an officer of the court. Would we allow these same public comments from a judge? Free speech means she can say what she chooses to, but it doesn’t mean she can avoid the consequences.

  14. In a fair world you’d be absolutely right, but the country is being increasingly controlled by evil, malignant forces hell bent on destroying civil society as it has existed for centuries. If we do not fight back, with every weapon at our disposal, America as we know it is doomed. Stop maintaining the high ground, it will lead to our destruction.

  15. I admire your intellectual integrity but respectfully disagree. The character and fitness criterion must mean to bar more than what qualifies as criminal behavior, or else it would refer only to crimes. Open proclamation of invidious bias — in a context related dedicated to the practice of law, no less — seems to me to fall afoul of this rarely invoked criterion.

  16. She would just run for office and be elected in a landslide in progressive clown NYC. Which is worse?

    She will still be elected at some point in NYC, no doubt

  17. The evolution of the sociopolitical construct of this nation will determine whether or not she is viewed as a pariah or a patriot, point of view pending. Either hoisted to her downfall by her own petard, or raised to greater glory by the mob. This remains to be seen.

  18. Read History…H.G. Wells Outline of History shows time after time Empires being destroyed when Centralized Power is accumulated by Machiavellians(greedy evil people).
    Just look at todays corporation and government…who Destroy the little people for the powerful people

    Read about Soros and son….$1.5 Billion a year to bring lawlessness to the USA

    It is clear the Bidens, Clintons, and many democrats and Rinos are USING OUR Government for their Wealth and our destruction!

    The Russian Hoax was the worst crime in history….Trump persecution is just a follow on! Either cut 50% of Federal Government and move most from DC…or the Country is LOST!

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