“These are not Normal Times:” A Guest Post by Reuben A. Guttman
My friend and brilliant qui tam lawyer, Reuben Guttman, prods debate on current issues through a listserv on which he graciously included me. He recently circulated a piece that eloquently captures the grim reality that we face today, tomorrow, and with an unknown expiration date. There is, as he says, lots of work to do.
Here is Reuben’s take.
I am reading the emails and struggle for words to define our predicament. I watch the ads for the CNN special on the “2000’s” which flash Obama in Grant Park on Election Day 2008 saying “change has come to America.” It was this wonderful moment now tainted by its illusory nature and the belated realization that the evils of racism fester amidst a committed and unashamed population which we know includes some of our nation’s leaders.
Our prisons are disproportionately populated by minorities and our Justice Department seeks to monetize the misery of the incarcerated for the benefit of private prison operators whose contracts would have been cancelled had a Sally Yates directive not been rescinded. These same operators are making hundreds of millions of dollars with ICE contracts and the implementation of an agenda that has destroyed immigrant families. Regulations which protect workers from injury and death on the job are being rescinded or analyzed for recession. Rules protecting our environment and our natural treasures are being rolled back. Implementation and enforcement of Food and Drug Laws is being compromised at great peril to the infirm who must make medical decisions based on honest information and pure science and not spin driven by Wall Street promises. Our public education system which has produced Nobel Laureates and great leaders is being gutted while rules protecting students from sexual harassment and discrimination are being dismantled.
And our precious rule of law – which has inspired the freedom for scholars and scientists to innovate – is being compromised at every step. Attacks from the President on the press and individual reporters are unprecedented. Attacks on our artists and athletes are no more than a transparent efforts to divide, instill fear, and inspire hatred. And the only legitimate and necessary wall – the one separating church and state – is being torn down.
These are not normal times. And while it is true that we as a nation have weathered situations of which are not proud, we did so by speaking up and getting into “good trouble” as John Lewis might say.
Amidst all the turmoil, I wonder when law schools convene later this month whether it will be business as usual. I wonder whether the millennials who enter as 1L’s will not appreciate that the history they are living is not the shining example of the way things should be. I wonder whether law students will be trained to truly question authority and protect those without a voice as it is readily apparent that authority in this day and age needs questioning and too many absent a voice need protection. I also wonder whether we will be teaching the next generation of lawyers about survival in the big law firm environment or simply stressing the need for public service and the need for trained practitioners and reminding students that hard work and the fear of failure has driven many young lawyers to make a world of difference as in perhaps Loving v Virginia.
And so I think some part of the solution depends on how we train the next generation of advocates and what values we instill in them. Lots of work to be done.
Reuben A. Guttman is a senior founding partner at Guttman, Buschner & Brooks PLLC