Deans from 157 of the nation’s law schools — including University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Ronald Weich — made a rare departure from a tradition of impartiality by issuing a Jan. 12 statement condemning the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“The violent attack on the Capitol was an assault on our democracy and the rule of law,” reads the statement. “The effort to disrupt the certification of a free and fair election was a betrayal of the core values that undergird our Constitution. Lives were lost, the seat of our democracy was desecrated, and our country was shamed.”
The joint statement goes on to reflect upon the roles that lawyers played in recent events and affirm the deans’ commitment to working together to repair the damage to democratic institutions and rebuild faith in the rule of law.
“Many lawyers and judges worked honestly and in good faith, often in the face of considerable political pressure, to ensure the 2020 election was free and fair. However, we recognize with dismay and sorrow that some lawyers challenged the outcome of the election with claims that they did not support with facts or evidence. This betrayed the values of our profession.”
In a Jan. 7 letter to School of Law students, Weich wrote: “You are preparing to become members of a profession dedicated to reasoned debate and the peaceful resolution of disputes. The action of an armed mob forcing itself into the Capitol building to disrupt the constitutional procedure for formalizing election results is antithetical to everything lawyers should stand for and believe in.
“This was not peaceful protest protected by the First Amendment. This was vandalism and thuggery, a frontal challenge to the rule of law, and it must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The president’s provocation of such violence was reprehensible and unforgivable.”
Weich concluded his message with this: “One reason I love being a law school dean is the opportunity to help the next generation of justice seekers enter the legal profession. When you join the bar it will become your obligation to defend the institutions of our democracy.
“You will have the chance to work to improve those institutions using advocacy skills you have honed at UB. You will be officers of the court and guardians of the Constitution. Thank you for assuming this responsibility and for carrying on the work of previous generations of lawyers.”
The nation’s deans concluded their statement with a call to action. “As legal educators and lawyers ourselves, we must redouble our efforts to restore faith in the rule of law and the ideals of the legal profession. We have enormous faith in the law’s enduring values and in our students, who will soon lead this profession. We call upon all members of the legal profession to join us in the vital work ahead.”