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Law Profs for Libby

On June 7, a dozen of the country’s most venerable constitutional law scholars, including Alan Dershowitz and onetime Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork *, filed a friend of the court brief (below and pages 2-7) in the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Libby was convicted in March of lying to the FBI and a grand jury in connection with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s Plamegate investigation. In the brief, the lawyers argued that Fitzgerald’s appointment (under Justice Department regulations that replaced the post-Watergate independent counsel statute after Congress permitted that law to expire in 1999) was, constitutionally, a “close question.” (See Page 3.)

The law professors teach at Harvard, Columbia, Hastings College of the Law, * University of Colorado, Pepperdine, Georgetown, and Boston University law schools. But Judge Walton, whose own path to law school included weapons, street fighting, and scrapes with the law, found their argument “not persuasive” and compared it unfavorably to the work of “a first-year law student.” In oral arguments, the judge said he believed the academics’ brief was designed to intimidate him. “It appeared to be produced” he grumbled, “for the sole purpose of throwing their names out there so somehow I’d feel pressure.”

“When twelve prominent and distinguished current and former law professors of well-respected schools are able to amass their collective wisdom … to provide their legal expertise,” Walton wisecracked in a footnote to an order on the brief, it is a “reflection of these eminent academics’ willingness in the future to step to the plate” for “numerous litigants” who cannot “articulate the merits of their legal positions.” (See Page 8.) For a response to Walton by Slate’s Christopher Hitchens, click here.

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* Correction, June 18, 2007: An earlier version of this column inadvertently linked to a bio of Bork’s son, Robert H. Bork, Jr. Return to the corrected sentence. An earlier version of this column misidentified Hastings College of the Law as “University of California at San Francisco.” Hastings is part of the University of California, and it is located in San Francisco, but it is not affiliated with U.C.S.F. Return to the corrected sentence.