Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ave Maria Right To Work School of Law?

AvemarialogoAve Maria School of Law has recently announced that former NLRB Member John Raudabaugh will be the new Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law.  I've got no problem with a law school having a qualified, conservative labor law teacher.  But the specifics of this arrangement raises red flags for me.  The school's announcement:

Ave Maria School of Law, in conjunction with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, has established the Reed Larson Professorship of Labor Law. The position will be held by John Raudabaugh, a former member of the National Labor Relations Board (1990-1993) and an experienced labor and employee relations attorney.

The Foundation will provide Professor Raudabaugh's services to Ave Maria School of Law. He will teach courses related to labor law and employee rights. As part of his teaching duties, Professor Raudabaugh will supervise a labor law litigation course (practicum or clinic) involving students in significant Foundation-supported cases each academic term, thereby giving high level litigation experience and education to Ave Maria School of Law students. In addition to his teaching duties, Professor Raudabaugh, as a Foundation Staff Attorney, will also work in the Foundation's legal aid program (described at and litigate Foundation-supported cases brought for individual workers.

So, basically, Ave Maria is allowing the NRTWLDF to put in one of the group's attorneys in the classroom, which is troubling.  Outside groups funding professorships and other things is certainly not unusual.  There has long been controversy over gifts that have strings attached related to donating group's goals.  But this case seems to make the law school an unfiltered mouthpiece for the NRTWLDF--in particular, having students working on (only?) Foundation cases.  I can undersand why NRTWLDF would want to do this, but to my mind, Ave Maria is undermining its credibility here.  Yes, I know it's a conservative school, but this goes beyond that.  For instance, if the SEIU funded a professorship at my school with no strings attached, I'd be fine with that.  If Craig Becker wanted to teach at my school, I'd be thrilled.  But if the SEIU offered to fund a professorship only if it was held by Becker and only if it required the litigation of SEIU cases, I'd be the first to object.  That takes away any semblance of academic independence or integrity.

Hat Tip:  Patrick Kavanagh


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Your overall point is sound, but maybe you've left out the "strings" that were attached. Did the school's announcement actually say that NRTWLDF would fund the professorship "only if it was held by [Raudabaugh] and only if it required the litigation of [LRTWLDF] cases?" If that's true, then you are spot-on. However, do we know if the clinic would be free to go in other directions if, say, the Economic Policy Institute wanted clinical students to help research its projects?

In other words, are the strings real or imagined?

Posted by: John Wilkes | Jun 1, 2012 8:09:52 AM

I didn't claim that there were or weren't specific strings attached to the arrangement (I was just using that to make my point clearer in my SEIU hypo). No matter what strings exist, this arrangement sets up class to work on a specific group's cases, which I have a real problem with.

Posted by: Jeff Hirsch | Jun 1, 2012 8:51:19 AM

Many law school clinics litigate only certain types of cases. Environmental clinics represent enviro groups. Death penalty clinics represent prisoners. Other clinics represent only the elderly. The list goes on. And many of these types of arrangements are funded with private donations. Why is this so different? And would the students who participate in other types of law school clinics have the freedom to go in other directions? I doubt it.

Posted by: Hal9000 | Jun 1, 2012 2:28:42 PM

Because the law school clinical faculty pick the cases and are the attorneys of record, not Environmental Defense or any other groups. In this case the two are completely merged--the faculty member is also acting as an outside group's attorney. That blurring of the law school and another litigant is what I think undermines the school's independence.

Posted by: Jeff Hirsch | Jun 1, 2012 9:02:44 PM

I dunno. I think this is a fine arrangement. I just don't see the harm despite my own feelings on right to freeload. For these students are likely quite conservative this represents an opportunity to work for a leading group in the field.

Posted by: Per Son | Jun 2, 2012 4:41:09 AM

I'm no theologian, but I wonder how they reconcile this with the traditionally rather pro-union position of the Catholic Church.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Jun 3, 2012 8:18:55 AM

I give "Per Son" kudos for (limited) intellectual honesty (of course, the "right to freeload" only has meaning if you presume monopoly bargaining, a privilege that unions demand and jealously guard, so his phrase is both disingenuous and gratuitous). Of course, the primary criticism is bull, as Hal9000 effectively demonstrates.

Posted by: James Young | Jun 3, 2012 3:14:05 PM

Well gee thanks for the extremely rude bit of nastiness. Disagreement is one thing, you instead insult me. That is so lame when I know you are smarter than that. Despite your nastiness, I still hope your side wins Knox as I believe that your arguments were correct.

Posted by: Per Son | Jun 3, 2012 6:58:27 PM

I didn't intend to insult or be rude, at least no more than you deem nonmembers "freeloaders," "Per Son." "Freeloading" presumes willing willing acceptance, and in a system of monopoly bargaining, you simply can't make that assumption. That was the only "limitation" intended.

And your comment as to the arrangement was certainly more so than the post-in-chief.

Posted by: James Young | Jun 4, 2012 9:39:14 AM

And by the way, thank you for your comment about Knox. No decision today, so we shall see.

Posted by: James Young | Jun 4, 2012 9:40:09 AM

James, my beef was you saying I am being intellectually dishonest. I take it very personal when my honesty is made an issue. We disagree on many things, but my positions are well-thought, and based on my sincere beliefs, passions, and understanding of the law. My feelings about the area of law you champion are not secret. Nothing is dishonest in what I say. Heck, I wanted to reflexively agree with the SEIU, but I just could not. Intellectual dishonesty would be me standing up saying you should lose, even in my heart feeling otherwise.

Posted by: Per Son | Jun 4, 2012 1:21:48 PM

It seems odd to me that a school would be considered perfectly independent if a clinic at the school takes on an advocacy role in favor of one side of an ideologically polarized debate -- which is so common as to not merit comment -- but suddenly a school has "no semblance of . . . integrity" if its clinic is working on an advocacy group's cases. I don't see why it makes so much difference, especially given that the clinics that take on the advocacy role often have a close working relationship with advocacy groups.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jun 6, 2012 12:38:34 PM

Orin, I think there's a significant difference between a clinic that takes a particular side of an issue and what's going on here. Even in clinics with a particular bent, the instructors are not also employees of a specific litigant--a litigant that picks and apparently controls all of the cases that the clinic works on. In other words, I don't have a problem with the fact that Ave Maria opened up a labor law rights clinic that is exclusively suing unions; nor do I have a problem with the fact that the clinic would coordinate with NRTWLDF, which is an obvious partner for these types of cases. However, I do have a problem with the fact that Ave Marie appears to be allowing a particular interest group to go into the school with its own attorney and own cases to run a clinic, rather than the school having one of its independent faculty members chooses cases and decide when and to what extent to coordinate with this and other groups.

Posted by: Jeff Hirsch | Jun 6, 2012 6:49:34 PM


So basically what you are saying is that this arrangement would be fine if Raudabaugh ended his paid employment with NRTWLDC, even though he would likely maintain his ties to the organization. Seems like form over substance to me.

Posted by: Hal9000 | Jun 7, 2012 12:16:21 PM

Hal, I didn't say that. I said his formal role with the group was one of the problems, but not the only one. It would be better if his formal role with the group didn't exist, but I still don't like an outside litigant having that degree of control over a law school's course. Moreover, it is not form over substance. I would also object to clinics that don't have de jure ties as strong as this situation, but had de facto ones that were just as strong (although I don't think the form/de jure aspect is irrelevant).

Posted by: Jeff Hirsch | Jun 7, 2012 9:31:42 PM

Monopoly bargaining? Is that what a corporation does on behalf of its shareholders? I'm so confused . . .

Posted by: Ebenezer Scrooge | Jun 8, 2012 9:20:19 AM

First, Jeff, the Foundation is not an "outside litigant": it is a charitable organization providing free legal aid to individuals who are litigants. Second, it seems that you object to what you perceive to be (perhaps even rightly) the content of "a law school's course." I'm not quite sure what it is that you're objecting to. The fact that the clinic focuses on violations of employees' rights by labor unions? The content of the actual course, again, as you perceive them? Are we to conclude that you are therefore in favor of academic freedom, so long as labor law is taught from the pro-union side?

With all that having been said, I speak not only as John's colleague, but as one of his former students: I took his course in employment discrimination when he was an adjunct at Emory, representing employers in his "day job."

The fact is that this is no different from any other internship program or public-service/pro bono program (like ones I did with Atlanta Legal Aid and the U.S. Attorney's office) in any other law school. Jeff's objection sounds distinctly like an objection to the content of the Foundation's legal aid program. He is certainly entitled to that position. But to suggest that this program/professorship is objectionable based on objective criteria is not credible.

Posted by: James Young | Jun 8, 2012 12:44:02 PM

James, please read my comments and post. I've repeatedly responded to virtually all of your comments, in particular to expressly say that I do not object to the subject matter or side taken by this clinic.

Posted by: Jeff Hirsch | Jun 8, 2012 12:49:53 PM

OK, Jeff, here's what you said: "I do have a problem with the fact that Ave Marie appears to be allowing a particular interest group to go into the school with its own attorney and own cases to run a clinic, rather than the school having one of its independent faculty members chooses cases and decide when and to what extent to coordinate with this and other groups."

I'm sorry, but this appears to me to be a distinction without a difference, particularly when you refer "to clinics that don't have de jure ties as strong as this situation, but had de facto ones that were just as strong." I suppose we get to be a target because we're doing it more forthrightly than most.

Posted by: James Young | Jun 9, 2012 9:22:52 AM

This seems an odd complaint. One prominent law school, to take an example, has a clinic that focuses on "Poverty and Housing Law." That clinic does work exclusively for an outside group, the Legal Assistance Foundation. The clinic faculty is an employee of the outside group. If this is a controversial arrangement, I'm happy to provide details, so you can get a posse together to attack the University of Chicago's clinical programs. (You may even get a favorable link from Chicago's own Prof. Leiter.)

Posted by: Thomas | Jun 11, 2012 7:48:14 AM

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