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The Dean of Yale Law School pontificates about why law students do not protest and doesn’t know what she’s talking about; a note about the life of C. B. King and other black lawyers in the south in the Sixties

Dennis Roberts, 17 July 2017

There was no end to the shit C B King lived through. Poisoned his dog. Shot up his house at least twice. What’s funny is the dean of Yale Law School wrote a piece in the most recent issue of Time Magazine [Dean of Yale Law School: Campus Free Speech Is Not Up for Debate] with Donnie Jr., and his recent problems [Donald J. Trump Junior] [1] on the cover.  Gerken was talking about the reasons that though there have been many disruptions in colleges, protests against speakers who are loathed, this hasn’t happened in law schools (not just Yale).

Law School

CB King

***

First, for context, a few of her comments, along with this editor’s editorials:

Gerken states, as if she has never been in a courtroom or litigated a case – – and certainly never one against Dennis Roberts: “There may be a reason why law students haven’t resorted to the extreme tactics we’ve seen on college campuses: their training. Law school conditions you to know the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. That’s why lawyers know how to go to war without turning the other side into an enemy.” Maybe that’s the difference between Berkeley and Yale, Dennis having been a Berkeley man.

Proving she is so, so out of touch, Gerken states: “We need to return to what were once core values in politics and what remain core values in my profession.” Our core political values appear to have disappeared soon after the constitution’s ink dried: “Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” … As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant….” Jefferson and Adams were both lawyers

Lastly, the statement that so offended Dennis: ” The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer, Thurgood Marshall was able to do things in court that a black man could never do in any other forum, like subjecting a white woman to cross-examination. Marshall was able to practice even in small, segregated towns in rural Maryland during the early days of the civil rights movement. The reason was simple: despite their bigotry, members of the Maryland bar had decided to treat Marshall as a lawyer, first and foremost.”

Back to Dennis …

***

Gerken’s theory is this bullshit that law students are taught to consider both sides of issues and be polite, etc.  No Dean, law students don’t protest as they are 1) generally conservative and 2) scared to death of the Bar Character and Fitness Committee. And to make her point Gerken talks about how Thurgood Marshall was always treated with respect in the rural area of Maryland where he sometimes practiced – the white lawyers treated him this way BECAUSE HE WAS A LAWYER. [2] I think this is total bullshit tho she cites a biography.  [3] What a fucking idiot.

CB King had his skull split open by the Sheriff because he sat where the white lawyers sat; Judges and lawyers generally refused to use courtesy titles like Mr King or Attorney King. It was “CB”. This was not friendship. It was disrespect to “put him in his place” He couldn’t use the County Bar library as he couldn’t join the County Bar and had to go to Ohio for law school as there were none in the south that would admit blacks.

Law School

C. B. King, after having his skull bashed open

Oh he could use the federal law library, a locked little room in the post office where the federal court was. But you see the ONLY key was with a guy who was on vacation, was ill, he lost it and they had to change the lock and the like. When we had a trial though told by the judge that our case would go out first so we better be there at 8:30 oh suddenly another trial came first but “come back at 1:30” tho there was  no way it could finish by 1:30 but they held us around till noon and then at 1:30 kept us till 4:30 but we’ll be sure to get our case on “come back tomorrow” and the same game until they ran out of chickenshit misdemeanors to put in front of our trials.

Poisoned his dog. Shot up his house at least twice.  Had his skull split open by the Sheriff

Gerken is the Dean of Yale Law and she knows nothing about the lives of black lawyers in the south. Embarrassing. The best part is that Drew Days III [4] who worked with us one summer was Solicitor General under Clinton and then went back to his professorship st Yale Law. He must be retired but she must know of him and could have called him before she wrote this dumb shit about Marshall to suggest that black lawyers throughout the south were treated with courtesy and respect by the white lawyers (and I assume judges) because they are LAWYERS. No Dean, at least in C B King’s case to them he was a N***** with a law degree. And that was true of every black lawyer in the south that I ever met. It was just a miracle that they couldn’t find grounds to disbar him as they would have loved to. I’ll write the Dean tomorrow and nicely tell her she should do a little research before she makes these kind of dumb generalizations.

***

Ed note: We look forward to publishing that letter to the Dean right here.

 

Updated Post: Dennis Roberts’ Open Letter 

 

July 22, 2017

Time Magazine
Viewpoint
225 Liberty Street
New York, N. Y. 10281-1008

Dear Viewpoint Column:

I am reproducing a letter I sent to the Dean of Yale Law who wrote a Viewpoint column in your issue with Donald Trump, Jr. on the cover, July 24, 2017.  Since you do not want attachments I hope this will copy.  Meanwhile I will also print it and mail it to you.  Her column disturbed me greatly.  Her notion of why law students do not demonstrate is ludicrous.  More important, her notion that even in the racist south in the early days of the civil rights movement, the white lawyers treated black lawyers with courtesy and respect because they were lawyers is nonsense.   Anyhow, here it is.  I did not copy my letterhead as that usually comes out with very bad formatting.

 

 

July 20, 2017

Dean Heather Gerken
Yale School of Law
127 Wall Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06511

 

also by email: heather.gerken@yale.edu

 

Dear Dean Gerken:

 

I am writing to you because I take serious issue with your “Viewpoint” article in the July 24, 2017 issue of Time Magazine. First let me introduce myself. I am still practicing law, and have been doing so since 1964, some 53 years at the Bar. Along with Michael Tigar and Gerald Lefcourt I did all of the pre-trial motions in the Chicago 8 and Angela Davis cases. I represented Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement. The case went on for 13 years, three times to the Ninth Circuit and twice to SCOTUS. I tell you all of this so you will understand that I have been around a long time and have seen many things.

Let me start with your explanation of the reason there are no disruptive protests at law schools while there are at undergraduate schools:

“There may be a reason why law students haven’t resorted to the extreme tactics we have seen on college campuses: their training. Law school conditions you to know the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. That’s why lawyers know how to go to war without turning the other side into an enemy.”

Let me suggest that law students, aside from being usually more conservative, do not demonstrate because the conduct of every law student is governed by two great fears: the Character and Fitness Committee of the State Bar and a bad recommendation from the Dean. Those are the reasons they do not engage in disruptive demonstrations, not because law school teaches them to behave as “righteous” people demonstrating “the rituals of respect” or to “recognize the best in the other side.”

Let me summarize a few of your points: “we demand that they imaginatively and sympathetically reconstruct the best argument on the other side.”… “The rituals of respect shown inside and outside the courtroom come from this training.”… “Thurgood Marshall was able to practice even in small segregated towns in rural Maryland during the early days of the civil rights movement. The reason was simple: Despite their bigotry, members of the Maryland Bar had decided to treat Marshall as a lawyer, first and foremost….”

I must conclude that you have been in academia your entire career and have never litigated a case. Most of us who have ever practiced law know just how disrespectful and even vicious lawyers can be to each other. Far too often we do in fact “go to war … and do turn the other side into an enemy.” Prosecutors are generally better than civil lawyers in terms of their ability to “show respect” to the criminal defense lawyer trying a case against them. Generally this is because the criminal bar is smaller than the rest of the bar. We meet and deal with them every day and both sides realize that you don’t want to develop a reputation as a fool or a liar if you expect to deal cases with the same prosecutor. Prosecutors also need to maintain a good reputation for exactly the same reason. But many civil lawyers can be the most uncivil people it will ever be your misfortune to encounter. This is not necessarily true of the older lawyers, but many of the young ones, out to make a “name” in the firm, can be vicious. They lie, they hide evidence, they stubborn perjury. I have dealt with enough of them to feel comfortable in making that statement.

But let’s talk about Justice Marshall. I can’t imagine where the author got the notion that “despite their bigotry, members of the Maryland Bar had decided to treat Marshall as a lawyer, first and foremost”. Perhaps the author learned it from speaking with the white Maryland bar. Perhaps even Justice Marshall told him that to sound temperate as a Justice. But unless white rural Maryland lawyers are shockingly different than white lawyers in the south generally, at a time when Justice Marshall was practicing, this is an incredible and frankly unbelievable statement.

In 1963-1966 I worked for Attorney C. B. King in Albany, Georgia. He was the only black lawyer in all of southwest Georgia from the fifties when he returned home to practice until the late sixties. He was the most brilliant and fearless man I ever met. He needed to be fearless because his home was shot up on several occasions and his dog poisoned. Battery acid was put on his car seat while in court burning through his trousers. I don’t think these were necessarily done by members of the bar, but you can never be certain in an environment where the Judge in neighboring Terrell County, W. I. Geer, running for re-election, had campaign posters which read: “Re-elect W. I. (don’t want the n***** vote) Geer.”

Did the local white bar treat C. B. King, like Marshall, “as a lawyer, first and foremost”. Did they extend the many courtesies, the “rituals of respect” lawyers show each other? Let me give you a few examples of how Attorney C. B. King was treated despite doubtless being the most brilliant lawyer in that part of the state. Could he use the county bar library? Of course not, he was black. Black southern lawyers had extensive and expensive law libraries because they were denied access to the law libraries used by the local white bar. There was the federal law library in Albany so clearly a black lawyer should have had access there. However, it was kept locked and the man with the key was either “on vacation”, “home ill”, “the key was lost” and other variations of an excuse to keep Attorney King from gaining access.

When C. B. King tried to sit among the local lawyers on the other side of the bar the sheriff demanded he leave. When he did not the Sheriff split his head open with a cane. No local lawyer intervened or objected. That was in 1962 and there was a photograph of his bloodied and bandaged head in the New York Times. The explanation the sheriff gave the press: “He is a n***** and I am a white man”

Generally it is a courtesy to address another lawyer with a courtesy title like Mr or Ms or Attorney preceding their last name. With Attorney King it was always “C. B.”. This was not to suggest friendship, it was one more way to try to humiliate and demean him, a way of putting him “in his place”. He used to joke that if he had another son he would name him “Mister”.

He had to go to law school in Ohio because there was no law school in the south where he could be admitted. In the Fifties his older brother, Clennon King, tried to enroll at Ol’ Miss and was arrested, beaten, and put into an insane asylum until C. B. King could secure his release through a habeas. So there was no point in applying there or at any other private or state law school in the deep south. Now Case Western Reserve where he studied taught national law as Yale and most of the better law schools do. You read cases from a variety of states to illustrate certain points. At the time that was not the practice in Georgia. There the bar exam required Georgia case law. So upon graduation he went to the office of the dean of Georgia black lawyers, Donald Hollowell, and “read the law” all summer. Years later he was told by an official of the Georgia Bar (who said he’d deny it if it were ever repeated) that he had scored higher on the Georgia Bar than anyone in the history of the bar. I tell you this so you can understand just how brilliant he was and if any lawyer ever deserved these courtesies it was C. B. King. But unlike the fantasy about Thurgood Marshall he wasn’t “treated like a lawyer, first and foremost.” To the white bar he was a “n***** with a law degree”.

One of their favorite “courtesies” was to order us to court to start a trial at 8:30 on a given morning. Although opposing counsel, usually the prosecutor, had assured us that our case would go out first it usually turned out another case (or more) would be tried before ours. This was true even if we had a felony case and they tried a white lawyer’s misdemeanor case first. It was true when we were there on a criminal case and they put on a civil trial before ours. The judge would make us sit through that trial and at noon we were told to be back at 1:30. We had to do that despite knowing there was no way that trial could possibly finish during the afternoon. But we would sit all afternoon only to be told to come back the next day where the same charade would be repeated, often several days in a row. He frequently had cases more than a 100 mile round trip away from Albany but there was nothing he could do but obey. They would have loved to disbar him and he was scrupulously careful to avoid a contempt.

When out of town there were no restaurants where he could get lunch. Did any of the local lawyers intercede on his behalf? Did any show him the courtesy of inviting him to join them for the noontime meal? Not while I was there. Local lawyers would advise the judge that they hand delivered process when they hadn’t. Local lawyers would refer to his clients as “boy” until old age when they became “uncle”. Female clients, no matter their age, were “girl”. Although he registered his protest on the record each time the judge would just smile and deny his motion.

There were one or two local lawyers who thought they were treating him as an equal. They would write him long letters arguing the legality of segregation, or come by the office wasting his time philosophizing about the futility of the movement and the arrogance of Dr. King (no relation), someone he represented in 1962 when he was jailed for leading a march protesting segregation. C. B. King was too much of a gentleman to throw them out despite my interrupting several times advising that we had a brief to get out or a client in the waiting room. The list of racist treatment by his brothers at the bar would go on for pages but let me close with a suggestion. The next time you want to pontificate about the courtesies extended to black lawyers in the south by the white bar (which of course they could not join) when Justice Marshall was practicing, sit down with Drew Days, III. He clerked for us and later went on to become President Clinton’s Solicitor General. He was also on the faculty at Yale Law School. He could tell you about the horrible racist treatment accorded to Attorney King by the white Bench and Bar.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dennis Roberts

 

Heather Gerken

Heather Gerken, Dean of Yale Law School

 

Notes:

[1] Donald J. Trump Junior https://thinkprogress.org/donald-trump-jr-potential-legal-jeopardy-f783fdab0107

[2] Maryland, despite being a “Border State” during the Civil War is commonly regarded as ambiguous in terms of being as Northern State or a Southern State.

[3] She cites Kenneth Mack’s book Representing the RaceI was not able to find any evidence in a google search that Mack discussed CB King.

[4] Days is still an active professor at Yale.

 

A brief history of Dennis Roberts

Other posts by Dennis Roberts are available at http://jayleiderman.com/blog/ search term Dennis Roberts.

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Howard Moore Jr. says:

    The Dean’s remarks show she is so out of touch with history and reality she is a danger to herself and others. Most of all, her remarks raise a question of her fitness to be a Dean of Yale or any other law school. Revising and inventing history is one thing but ignorance is another and infinitely more dangerous.

  • Dennis ,roberts says:

    God bless you Howard. You lived through the Sixties as a black lawyer in Georgia so you know far better than I how insidiously awful it was. I’m embarrassed for Yale Law. For her next article, though I doubt she’ll have the nerve, she needs to speak w Drew Days who worked with us one summer and can set her straight on the Courtesies white lawyers and judges paid to black lawyers. Her articles should be about fascinating topics like The Rule in Shelley’s case whatever that is. I think it fair to say that the white bar viewed you as they viewed C B. A N***** with a law degree.

  • XRumerTest says:

    Hello. And Bye.

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