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Brian Leiter’s meltdown

Brian Leiter’s meltdown

Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School regularly attacks other law professor bloggers in particularly nasty terms.  I didn’t even know who Leiter was when an academic warned me that one day Leiter would target me, and that prediction came true.

Leiter has an obsession with “crazed right-wing blogs,” which Leiter says includes yours truly.  Leiter has a particular fetish for Prof. Glenn Reynolds, who Leiter blames for all the ills of society right wing blogs who have more traffic than Leiter does:

Key to the success of all these blogs is “Instapundit,” the  blog by the reprehensible University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, whose sui generis combination of ignorance and moral depravity has made him the mainstay of the far right blogosphere (well outside academia), and who links vigorously to any academic he can find who is benighted as he is.

Leiter also hates the folks at Volokh Conspiracy who, in Leiter’s estimation, are “morally deranged.”

So when I saw this post by David Bernstein at Volokh today about Leiter in meltdown over a fairly mild critical email he received, it was like, Hah!  A New Civility Standard:

Prof. Brian Leiter is apparently grossly offended that an attorney sent him an email stating “You’re a ‘Law and ______’ Professor, not a lawyer.  How would you know how to ‘think like a lawyer’?”  Leiter not only sent his correspondent a pointed lengthy response criticizing his “impertinent,” “juvenile,” and “insolent” email,  but added at the end that “I will be sure to send a copy of this entire correspondence to the name partners of your firm,” suggesting that the attorney should be punished, or at least formally reprimanded.

Of course, being a philosopher who values reason and consistency, I’m sure Prof. Leiter would seek to have the same standard of civility applied to everyone, including himself.  And writing “how would you know how to ‘think like a lawyer?’” in private correspondence, by a rather anonymous chap no less, seems relatively tame compared to some of what gets stated publicly in the blogosphere by prominent individuals, such as calling one’s professional colleagues “morally deranged,”crazies“, “instaignorance”, and so forth and so on–the kind of statements Leiter, certainly henceforth, would never, ever make.  But if he does, you know whom [embedded link removed]  to contact [embedded link removed] to complain about “impertinent,” “insolent,” and “juvenile” postings.

Of course, unlike young attorneys, tenured law professors are largely immune from sanctions when engaging in speech related to public issues.  But that, of course, wouldn’t stop any upstanding professor from voluntarily waiving such protections and allowing himself to be penalized for the same kind of conduct he would want others punished for, now would it?  Thanks to Brian’s standard-setting, we can now look forward to a much more civil blogosphere.

Law professor Paul Campos at Lawyers Guns & Money blog (not my favorite blog for reasons having nothing to do with Campos), refers to the whole thing as Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash:

The truly grotesque level of pomposity displayed in Leiter’s frankly unhinged response to what, after all, seems like a perfectly reasonable question, is difficult to describe.   I’m aware from other correspondence that Leiter is indeed frantically striving to identify some of his anonymous critics, so he can expose them to the unspeakable consequences that must surely befall people for having the “insolence” and “impertinence” to criticize Brian Leiter on the internet.

So why do I have mixed feelings?

I have received a lot of nasty emails over the years and worse, so I know the feeling.  And I certainly would be within my rights to publish those emails, names, email addresses and all I know about the senders as Leiter has done (and one day I may do that).

I don’t know all of what Leiter has been through, but I’m pretty confident I can one up him. So I understand the frustration.

But the email which set him off seems really, really, really mild.

All the guy did was question Leiter’s “ability to think like a lawyer.”  Leiter has proven him right.

Update — Welcome Instapundit readers.  Thanks Prof. Reynolds for the link.  Heh.

Update 3-6-2013 — Just stumbled upon this interesting post from 2009, Brian Leiter, Academic Thug.  Apparently Leiter has been fighting with people since the beginning of time.


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Prof. Glenn Reynolds has proven beyond a reasonable doubt he is ready, willing and able to think like a troll, right Glenn old boy?

OOPS Copy Paste Disaster! I Meant Prof. Brian Leiter.

And how does thinking like a lawyer, differ from thinking like any other human being? It’s just a question, Mr. Leiter! Don’t go bombastic on me for that one! *shields ears from pompous, self righteous hypocritical troll flames*

Remember, tolerance is only approved when you agree with the left. (But doesn’t the definition of tolerance assume that one disagrees with a position in question to begin with?)

A yes, the definition of words: Another art form of the sociopathic socialists. It all depends on what the word is, is. And of course, Gay Marriage, that wonderful square circle, and the list goes on.

    legalizehazing in reply to Paul. | March 4, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Right?! Another excellent example of hypocritical “tolerance”… and from such an “educated” fellow

    Now for his behavior Mr. Leiter isn’t just open for judgement from his peers whom he is so superior to, he gets to be judged by everyday folk.

    Bad form sir! Bad form. I don’t even have my undergrad yet. Does my arrogance frustrate you:(

Regarding Leiter, we have a phrase for people like him here in WNC: “The boy ain’t raht.”

I’d never read Leiter’s blog, so just perused it. An arrogant tone. Somewhere the guy has got the idea that he’s superior, and should be accorded a respect that borders on homage. He needs to philosophically ponder why he thinks he should be accorded respect.

Any time an uber lib writes sui generis you know it is followed by a truckload of uber lib bull$#!t. I am sure you’ve had email from our kind compassionate betters on the left that would be grounds for drone strikes had they been directed at Prof. Leiter from the right. Still, it is quite judicious of you to pause and consider Leiter’s position though he would never ever grant you the same deference.

I am amused by any Leftist calling someone else morally
depraved. For the vast majority of them, their idea of morality is to be kinder to animals than they are to people and to be Greener than you are.
The Professor manages to be nasty and incoherent at the same time.

shortwave8669 | March 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Professor Jacobson it is regrettable that those who are edified by your work over the years are less likely to say “thank you” as the grumpy are to say “you stink.”

The encouragement and community we find at Legal Insurrection and Instapundit and a few other blogs on the right are in some way a continuation of Andrew Breitbart’s work

Callipygian1 | March 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I reserve the right to deny respect to anyone. What a (poultry waste) way to get back at someone. He may regret doing that.

This is an excellent example of why pompous aspholes like Leiter become academics, and not successful trial or appellate attorneys.

Nobody…including appellate judges…can avoid wanting to whiz on them for their overweening arrogance and self-aggrandizement.


legalizehazing | March 4, 2013 at 11:04 pm

This is one reason why people have a problem with tenure.

Just because your job is secure doesn’t mean your reputation is.
And the Leftist clowns can’t support you if you’re a lambasting @$$.

    RickCaird in reply to legalizehazing. | March 6, 2013 at 7:37 am

    The interesting thing about Leiter is he recently moved from UT Austin to Chicago. I really cannot understand why, with his reputation, anyone at Chicago would have hired him. He must be real fun at faculty meetings.

    Keith Burgess-Jackson has been watching Leiter for several years now on his blog. His descriptions of Leiter are “Academic Thug” or “Academic Bully”. Both are apt descriptions.

    I wonder if Leiter really understand how damaging to himself his frequent, pompous attacks are.

David R. Graham | March 4, 2013 at 11:05 pm

This country and most others are in the hands/under the boot of the criminally insane. This is so enormous an world historical condition that it can only be by the Will of God. I cannot see any reformation this side of that Will’s will to strip away the psychotropic drugs, “legal” and “illegal,” free association of the sexes and step-parents.

    2nd Thessalonians Chapter 2, verse 11-12 comes to mind,

    “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

quiksilverz24 | March 4, 2013 at 11:20 pm

For a good laugh, read Leiter’s policy on comments. Please don’t question his superior intellect.

nordic_prince | March 5, 2013 at 12:01 am

I hope they keep sharp objects away from his rubber room. The guy is liable to hurt himself.

I had never heard of this guy. He seems to just be another self-anointed king of a fantasy kingdom where he is the wisest of them all.

In truth the noise he makes fades quickly as the shelf life of most blog musings is 24 hours, after which it fades into a cache somewhere.

Threatening to “tell mommy” on critics though is embarrassingly impotent even for such a chattering ninny. Any law firm partner, upon receiving such a notice would probably ask first who the hell a Leiter is, and secondly why anyone would care what he thinks.

Has Leitner been appointed an Obama czar yet?

Late afterthought. It occurred to me that if there was anything taught in the law school I attended on the order of how to think like a lawyer, it included not taking stuff personally or emotionally. (In fact, some of us have had practices in which we kind of prefer at the end if opposing counsel is sputtering ad hominems rather than smiling broadly.)

I suspect that the “___” standing in for philosophy (I myself don’t think much of this exhausted discipline), coupled with a question that implies a dearth of real-life legal practice, might have hit a nerve.

casualobserver | March 5, 2013 at 1:09 am

And the line between ranting activists and ‘academics’ continues to blur………

Leitner and Dennis Rodman should form a PR firm together.

TrooperJohnSmith | March 5, 2013 at 4:49 am

He sounds like Democratic Senatorial material to me. How soon can he move to Massachusetts and establish residency?

American Freedom Fighter | March 5, 2013 at 5:51 am

Typical reaction. All progressives are cry-babies. To quote you Professor Jacobson, “Freedom of speech for me, but not for thee”.

“ignorance and moral depravity”? Based on what? Just because Leiter says so?

And who the hell says “sui generis”? Is that to keep the hoi polloi out of the conversation?

    bongobear in reply to JohnC. | March 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

    People who are trying to impress others with their large vocabulary say ‘sui generis’ instead of a commonly used synonym such as ‘unique’.

Leiter: wasn’t he one of the brothers in the Step Brothers movie?

I sure as all getout ain’t no law skool perfesser, but I still feel gilty.

ROT spots in our nation:

Washington D.C.
Chicago, IL.

Save D.C. I love the archives and buildings.

Build canals (shovel ready jobs) let us give Lake Michigan more room.

Recently professor Leiter. Wrote about Scandinavian. Legal realism. I suggested he had insufficiently credited Torben Spaak in his paper. S o now he writes about Cooleyesque rankings. He has done some law school ranking too. He thinks unread law review articles are key to a solid educafion dfor lawyers. Some would disagree. Jack Rooney, Prof. Emer. At. Cooley

SoCA Conservative Mom | March 5, 2013 at 10:34 am

The word ‘pissant’ comes to mind.

Badger Pundit | March 5, 2013 at 10:49 am

On that theme, I posted this last night on

I read Grover as merely having set out to tweak Leiter a bit by positing that an academic focused on the connection between law and other fields is not as effective in executing legal tactics as is a practicing lawyer. His two brief sentences spurred Leiter to make an ass out of himself, thereby falling into the trap set by Grover’s tactic. Score one for the Nebraska grad!

And how smart is Leiter, really? We’re hardly talking about a John Roberts here, graduating Harvard with high honors in three years, and serving as a top officer of the Harvard Law Review. Leiter did go to Princeton, but received only low honors, and after that he took a bit of a step down, attending Michigan Law School, where he likewise graduated with low honors. I grant that Leiter’s well-versed in several fields, and is very dedicated to his work. But I doubt many regard him as a legal giant. One almost suspects that Leiter may have a deep-seated inferiority complex that helps explain his lashing out at a young lawyer for tweaking him a bit — no legal giant would stoop to doing that.

Three further points:

1. It’s interesting that Leiter purports to look down intellectually at Reynolds and Jacobson when they went to MUCH more prestigious law schools: Yale and Harvard, respectively, both of which legitimately contended for # 1 law school when they attended. By contrast, Michigan ranked at most 5th when Leiter attended (it’s dropped since).

2. In terms of who’s equipped to “think like a lawyer,” both Reynolds and Jacobson have substantial practice experience, besides their law scholarship and teaching experience. Even setting aside Leiter’s relative lack of smarts, he looks one-dimensional in terms of his breadth of expertise.

3. My one quibble with Jacobson lies with his ending his post with: “Heh.” This is rank plagiarism of Reynolds and quite possibly a trademark violation as well.

Never set foot in a university,.. or a courtroom, at beat I’ve been to two workers comp hearings which were both very civil, and very short. So I’ll leave the law practice stuff alone. I do however know human nature, having worked with the public for 30 years. You learn to read people, so as to know, who is going to be civil.. and who is going to be toxic..

This mediocre academic falls into the self agrandizing without the slightest justification catagory. His opinion of himself is vastly higher than reason would explain. pompous @ss comes to mind, as well as bubble dwelling academic lefty with no idea how the world works.. but he has lots of opinions on it anyway. Carved himself a niche in his own little world, and sees fit to talk down to the mere rabble..

The corporation would send out MBA’s to show up and tell us all how we were doing it all wrong,.. without one day in the trade.. they usually left unhappy.. pet theories didn’t last long when a guy or gal twenty years older would show them in practice, why said pet theory would not work. The samrter ones learned, and in time, made good managers..

the others?..

well there is always the back office.

John Sullivan | March 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm

If Mr. Grover has sent the same letter to Prof. Reynolds instead, Leiter would be patting him on the back. How’s that for principle?