Sorry as hell
UCLA law professor forced to recant for presenting a terrifying exam question related to Ferguson.
Law school exams often present legal conundrums ripped from headlines of the day, but one UCLA law professor is apologizing for basing a test question on what is apparently a taboo subject — the fallout from the police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Mo.
Professor Robert Goldstein said the exam question was designed to test students’ ability to analyze the line between free speech and inciting violence. It cited a report about how Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, shouted, “Burn this bitch down!” after a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.
The question then asked students to imagine that they are lawyers in the St. Louis County Attorney’s office and had been asked to advise the prosecutor “whether to seek an indictment against Head” for inciting violence. The exam reads:
“[As] a recent hire in the office, you are asked to write a memo discussing the relevant First Amendment issues in such a prosecution. Write the memo.”
But students complained, and writer Elie Mystal at the popular legal blog “Above the Law” opined that the test question was “racially insensitive and divisive.” Mystal also incorrectly alleged that the question asked students to “advocate in favor of extremist racists in Ferguson.”
“I recognize, though, that the recent disturbing events and subsequent decisions in Ferguson and New York make this subject too raw to make it a useful opportunity.”- Robert Goldstein, UCLA law professor
Goldstein has apologized for putting the question on the test and has promised not to grade the question.
“I clearly underestimated and misjudged the impact of this question on you. I realize now that it was so fraught as to have made this an unnecessarily difficult question to respond to at this time. I am sorry for this,” he wrote in an email to his students that a UCLA spokeswoman forwarded to FoxNews.com.
He defended his intentions in posing the question, making reference to both the Ferguson incident and a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict another police officer on the death of an unarmed man placed in a chokehold.
“As with many of my exams in this upper-level elective class, questions may be drawn from current legal issues in the news or from recent court reports. This helps make the exam educational and relevant,” he wrote in his email to students.
I’m serious: anyone with an ability to think independently, who isn’t paralyzed by ideas and concepts different from what he or she has been force-fed since kindergarten, has a wonderful career awaiting in law: clients aren’t interested in political correctness when they’re in trouble, and a creative thinker, unfettered by conventional thought police, could be wildly successful.
One caution, from someone with perfect LSATs who was rejected by both Yale and Harvard: keep your unconventional thinking to yourself when applying to school. That was thirty-five-years ago – the walls have only tightened since.