Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Partisanship at graduation: Looking at the law school commencement speakers 

[Editor's note: This is one of the posts that vanished when Blogger crapped out a few days back. Many of you have seen it, some of you have not. Comments, apparently, were not recovered.]

TaxProf has compiled this year's law school commencement speakers. I wondered how representative these speakers were of the American political spectrum, so I annotated TaxProf's list below with links where necessary. According to my classification, 42 are Democrats or obvious lefties who will not admit party affiliation, 15 are Republicans or obvious conservatives, and 13 unclassifiable based on my short research, or "nonpartisan." Among the partisans, the ratio of Democrats over Republicans was almost 3:1, which is less severe than I would have expected. My dim expectations notwithstanding, the disparity between left and right cannot be random, but rather must be a reflection of an agenda on the part of the university officials who make these decisions. The question is, does it matter?

  • Albany:  Stephen Younger (President, New York State Bar Association)

  • Stephen Younger, a partner at the Patterson Belknap firm, has with one exception (Christopher N. Cox) contributed exclusively to Democrats.

  • American:  Stephen Zack (President, ABA)

  • Stephen Zack represented Al Gore in the litigation over Florida's results in the 2000 presidential election, and was described in the Daily Kos wiki as "the smooth-talking Miami attorney leading John Kerry's army of election lawyers in Florida."

  • Arkansas-Little Rock:  Minnijean Brown Trickey (One of the Little Rock Nine)

  • Minnijean Brown Trickey was one of the "Little Rock Nine" (which makes her a legitimate civil rights heroine) and worked in the Clinton Administration.

  • Baylor:  Ken Starr (President, Baylor University)

  • OK, Ken Starr is probably not a Democrat.

  • Boston College:  Roderick Ireland (Chief Justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court) 

  • Chief Justice Ireland was first appointed to the bench by William Weld, a Republican, and to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts by Duval Patrick, a Democrat. Without more work, which I am unwilling to do, I'll categorize Chief Justice Ireland as non-partisan.

  • Boston University:  Denny Chin (Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit)

  • Judge Chin was first appointed to the federal bench by Bill Clinton, and to the Court of Appeals by Barack Obama.

  • Brooklyn:  Thomas Buergenthal (Judge, International Court of Justice)

  • Judge Buergenthal is an obvious transnational progressive, but no smoking partisan gun. Non-partisan, but no conservative.

  • BYU:  Susan Prager (Executive Director, AALS)

  • Susan Westerberg Prager is a long-time law professor, so the odds weigh heavily in favor of her being a liberal. That said, a quick search reveals no clear evidence of such, so she is non-partisan for these purposes.

  • California-Western:  Former leaders of the Judge Advocate Corps: Army (Lt. Gen. Scott Black), Navy (Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald) and Marines (Brig. Gen. Kevin Sandkuhler)

  • Non-partisan military men. Odds are, to the right of the other non-partisans on the list.

  • Cardozo:  Eric Schneiderman (Attorney General, New York)

  • Democratic elected official, former "public interest" lawyer. The prosecution rests.

  • Chicago:  Debra Cafaro (Chairwoman & CEO, Ventas Inc.)

  • Ms. Cafaro seems like a corporate tool, but actual she is a big Democratic contributor, including $15,000 to the Democratic National Committee in the last cycle.

  • Cincinnati:  Barbara Howard (Partner, Barbara J. Howard Co., L.P.A.)

  • A quick search reveals no partisan affiliation.

  • Columbia:  George Madison (General Counsel, U.S. Department of the Treasury)

  • Obama administration political appointee.

  • Cornell:  Stewart Schwab (Dean, Cornell Law School)

  • Dean Schwab is an economist, went to Michigan Law School (the TigerHawk law school of choice, for newbies), and clerked for Sandra Day O'Connor. No obvious partisan connection -- the O'Connor clerkship does not mean he is a Republican by any means -- but in the absence of more we will classify him as non-partisan.

  • Colorado:  Monica Márquez (Justice, Colorado Supreme Court)

  • Justice Márquez was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court by a Democrat (albeit with some Republican support), and is one of only a handful of openly LGBT state court judges. She is not openly partisan (which is only appropriate), but odds are very high that she votes for Democrats.

  • CUNY:  Julian Bond (civil rights leader)

  • Julian Bond is, among other things, a former Democratic state legislator.

  • Denver:  Diana DeGette (Member, U.S. Congress)

  • Diana DeGette is a Democratic member of Congress.

  • Duquesne:  Tom Corbett (Governor, Pennsylvania)

  • The Republican governor of Pennsylvania.

  • Drexel:  Betty Anne Waters (waitress turned attorney, featured in the movie, Conviction)

  • Betty Anne Waters, whatever her politics, is speaking for non-partisan reasons. Her story is quite something.

  • Florida International:  Charles Canaday (Chief Justice, Florida Supreme Court)

  • Justice Canaday is a Florida Republican and manifestly conservative.

  • Fordham:  Brian Williams (Anchor, NBC Nightly News)

  • Not a bad guy as obvious liberals go, lack of partisan documentation notwithstanding.

  • George Washington:  John Snow (Former Secretary, U.S. Treasury Department)

  • Former Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush, and not Paul O'Neill, so probably a Republican.

  • Georgia:  Kasim Reed (Mayor, Atlanta)

  • Kasim Reed is a Democratic politician.

  • Georgia State:  Johnny Isakson (Member, U.S. Senate) 

  • Johnny Isakson is a Republican member of the United States Senate.

  • Golden Gate:  Jeffrey Toobin (Legal Analyst, CNN)

  • Obvious lefty.

  • Gonzaga:  Steven Gonzalez (Judge, King County Superior Court, Washington)

  • Seattle judge. On a short search, no obvious partisan ties.

  • Harvard:  Alec Baldwin (Actor)

  • Seriously? And in any case, it says something about Harvard that it has the only non-serious person on the list. As if they had nothing to learn from real people.

  • Hofstra:  Eric Schneiderman (Attorney General, New York)

  • Uh, Democratic politician, again.

  • Houston:  Brad Smith (General Counsel, Microsoft)

  • Brad Smith's contributions are to both Republicans and Democrats and I imagine are motivated by what is best for Microsoft. He did give money to the RNC twice, though, which is more partisan than giving to one's own elected officials (who are Democrats), so we'll classify Smith as a non-partisan leaning right.

  • Indiana-Indianapolis:  Vernon Jordan (Senior Counsel, Akin Gump)

  • Vernon Jordan is a Democrat through and through, albeit personally lovely.

  • Louisville:  Greg Fischer (Mayor, Louisville)

  • Greg Fischer is a Democratic politician.

  • LSU:  Joel Klein (Former Chancellor, New York City Department of Education)

  • Democratic government lawyer, served in various capacities in the Clinton administration.

  • Maryland:  Brooksley Born (Former Chair, Commodities Futures Trading Commission)

  • Another Democratic appointee, under both Bill Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.

  • Michigan:  Rob Portman (Member, U.S. Senate)

  • My alma mater invited Republican Rob Portman, and 100 new graduates walked out! Awesome!

  • Michigan State:  Wallace B. Jefferson (Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court)

  • Justice Jefferson is an African-American, and owes his job several times over to Republican Governor Rick Perry, not to mention George W. Bush.

  • Minnesota:  Walter Mondale (Former Vice President, United States)

  • Egads.

  • Missouri-Kansas City:  Jay Nixon (Governor, Missouri)

  • The Democratic governor of Missouri.

  • Nebraska:  Clarence Thomas (Justice, U.S. Suupreme Court)

  • Uh, Republican.

  • New Mexico:  Elena Kagan (Justice, U.S. Supreme Court)

  • Uh, Democrat.

  • New York Law School:  Cory Booker (Mayor, Newark, New Jersey)

  • Democratic politician, albeit one of the better ones.

  • North Carolina:  Teresa Wynn Roseborough (Deputy General Counsel, MetLife)

  • Apparent corporate tool, actual Clinton administration partisan.

  • North Dakota:  John Hoeven (Member, U.S. Senate)

  • A Republican member of the United States Senate.

  • Northwestern:  John Paul Stevens (Former Justice, U.S. Supreme Court)

  • I think it is safe to say that notwithstanding his appointment by Gerald Ford, at this point John Paul Stevens is a liberal.

  • Oklahoma:  Glen Johnson (Chancellor, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education)

  • A former Democratic politician.

  • Oregon:  Martha Walters (Justice, Oregon Supreme Court).

  • Appointed by a Democrat, lifelong union lawyer. Classified here as a Democrat.

  • Pace:  Jonathan Lippman (Chief Judge, New York)

  • Appointed to various judicial functions by Republican governor Pataki and Democrats Spitzer and Paterson. We will call him non-partisan.

  • Pennsylvania:  Ed Rendell (Fromer Governor, Pennsylvania)

  • Democratic politican.

  • Pepperdine:  Robert George (Professor, Princeton University)

  • Robert George is known for his relatively conservative and Christian views, so we will put him on the right.

  • Roger Williams:  Paul Suttell (Chief Justice, Rhode Island Supreme Court)

  • A former Republican politician.

  • Rutgers-Camden:  Scott Turow (Novelist)

  • Scott Turow gives to Democrats.

  • Rutgers-Newark:  Elizabeth Warren (Special Advisor to the President of the United States)

  • Egads.

  • San Diego:  Ron Parraguirre (Chief Justice, Nevada Supreme Court)

  • A Republican, according to Judeapedia.

  • Santa Clara:  Carlos Moreno (Former Justice, California Supreme Court)

  • A Clinton appointee. Democrat.

  • Seton Hall:  Paul Fishman (U.S. Attorney, New Jersey)

  • Obama appointee, recommended by Democratic Senators Lautenberg and Menendez.

  • South Carolina:  Lindsey Graham (Member, U.S. Senate)

  • Republican Senator from South Carolina.

  • South Texas:  Annise Parker (Mayor, Houston)

  • The Democratic mayor of Houston. I admit, I did not know that Houston had a lesbian mayor.

  • St. John's:  Guido Calabresi (Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, 2d Circuit)

  • A Clinton appointee, but close relationships with many free-market conservatives on the bench. Non-partisan for this count, but your results may vary.

  • St, Thomas U.:  Miguel Diaz (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See)

  • Obama appointee, ambassador to the Vatican.

  • SUNY-Buffalo:  Kirsten Gillibrand (Member, U.S. Senate)

  • Democratic politician.

  • Syracuse: Joseph Biden III (Attorney General, Delaware)

  • Democratic politician.

  • Temple:  Arlen Specter (Former Member, U.S. Senate)

  • Democratic politician, GOP turncoat.

  • Texas:   Jack Balagia Jr. (Vice President and General Counsel, Exxon Mobil)

  • Gives to Republicans and Democrats, but how can an oil man be a Democrat these days? Non-partisan, leaning right.

  • UCLA:  Valerie Jarrett (Senior Advisor to President Obama)

  • Egads.

  • UC-Hastings:  Vaughn Walker (Former U.S. District Judge)

  • A Republican appointee who took fire from the Donks. Put him down as a conservative.

  • Vermont:  Amy Goodman (Host, Democracy Now!)

  • Serious lefty.

  • Villanova:  Kelly Ayotte (Member, U.S. Senate)

  • Republican Senator from New Hampshire.

  • Virginia:  Eric Holder (Attorney General, United States)

  • Egads.

  • Wake Forest:  William Suter (Clerk, U.S. Supreme Court)

  • Life-long military man, probably relatively conservative. I'll allow that profiling.

  • William & Mary:  Mark Warner (Member, U.S. Senate)

  • Democratic politician.

  • Washington & Lee:  Nina Totenberg (Legal Correspondent, NPR)

  • Egads.


    By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Thu May 12, 03:29:00 AM:

    At least one of those Democrats may be a bit more to the right. Joel Klein, former NYC school superintendent (not to be confused with liberal MSM tool Joe Klein) just wrote an op-ed for the WSJ slamming teacher's unions and calling for more parental choice. He proabably is more left on most issues but he is right (in both senses :^)) on this one. Of course this hardly alters your overall point about the overwhelming skew towards one end of the political spectrum.  

    By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu May 12, 09:07:00 AM:

    That Michigan stunt sickens me. Arrogant, uncivil children.  

    By Blogger SR, at Thu May 12, 09:13:00 AM:

    TH: If the larger pool from which these speakers are drawn is 3:1 Dem/Rep, then there is likely a similar ratio amongst the group as you have found here.
    Any doubts that the Bar is similarly composed?  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu May 12, 09:37:00 AM:

    Taking the good but relatively unfinished idea of listing graduation speakers and turning it into a genuinely intriguing walk through a slice of Americana I would never see anywhere else is just great blogging. Thanks for this. Learning about Ms. Waters alone is worth the click over here. The rest of the list is fun and instructive to read about. What's up in my native Virginia anyway, with that self-righteous corrupt scum Eric Holder talking at UVa and Nina Totenberg (!!) at W&L. Perhaps Holder can talk about the noble act of getting tax cheats pardoned in return for money. And, if someone actually feels compelled to invite Totenberg over the river to rant in Virginia, somehow I'd have expected it to be at the cross-free Wren Chapel at William and Mary rather than at W&L. What's up with that!  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu May 12, 10:15:00 AM:

    walker is a celebrated liberal, he is gay and presided over the gay marriage case just before retiring  

    By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Thu May 12, 12:03:00 PM:

    Maybe Republicans (sorry this is a supposedly nonpartisan blog hahahaha)...ok, conservatives, nee wingnuts...have nothing interesting to say to the graduates? Especially about justice. LOL  

    By Blogger Kurt, at Thu May 12, 01:30:00 PM:

    On U.Va. and Holder--Egads, indeed. I was hoping they would have more sense than that. I'm sorry to see I was mistaken. That one is bad, but the one that surprises me even more is W&L with Totenberg.

    On a different, but related note, did you see this post on Althouse about the three finalists for the new dean of the law school at Wisconsin-Madison? After the mess he left at W&M, I was amazed to see that Nichol was being considered seriously for such a position, though I suppose in Madison he wouldn't seem the least bit out of place.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu May 19, 04:24:00 PM:

    I suppose this is nothing new. Then DOJ Civil Rights head and future Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick spoke at my law school graduation. I didn't pay much attention to his speech. I was just glad to be done with school and wondering how I was going to make a living with my new expensive piece of lambskin. I really tuned out though when the theme of speech appeared to be "Why White People Are Bad" which to me didn't seem like an inspiring graduation topic. Wish I could read the speech today to see if it was as guilt mongering as I recall.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri May 20, 09:41:00 PM:

    I'm a Rutgers-Newark 2L. It's true we have a leftist reputation, earned in the 60s and 70s, summed up by our nickname "The People's Electric Law School". But these days, we also have one of the most active Federalist Society groups in the country. I believe Elizabeth Warren was invited to be a graduation speaker less because of her politics than because she is one of our few graduates with a high-profile national stature. Rutgers-Newark is big in NJ law and politics, but we don't have many graduates who are big on the national scene like Warren.  

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