Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Duke Suits and “Chains”

Here’s part of Kristen Butler’s column in today’s Chronicle followed by some JinC commentary. Butler begins:

If you thought the $30-million lawsuit against Durham was the end of the lacrosse litigation, think again.

According to blogger KC Johnson, "Duke, its administrators, and its extremist professors are not out of the legal woods yet.... A high-powered legal team representing most of the other 44 members of the 2006 lacrosse team is exploring a possible lawsuit."

Johnson added that the grounds for such a suit could include "mistreating the entire team, including misleading smears of the players by Duke President Richard Brodhead and dozens of professors." In this scenario, attorneys would likely argue that those "misleading smears" were slanderous and asserting that Duke should be held liable for the actions of its employees.

A more creative rationale could hold that participation on the 2006 team constituted a de facto contract to play for the University. Because Board of Trustees Chair Bob Steel admitted that negative publicity ended the team's season (Steel told The New Yorker he did it "to stop those pictures... it doesn't necessarily mean I think it was right"), attorneys might argue that this justification was not sufficient to legally void that contract.

No matter how attorneys decide to structure their arguments, the bottom line is that the University may not be done cutting super-secret settlement checks yet. And although the remaining players' cases probably aren't as compelling as the ones that have already been settled, they could (in a worst-case scenario) lead to lengthy depositions and eventually a trial.
Important facts could be revealed if proceedings went that far, but that would effectively end Duke's chances of "moving on"-at least within this decade.
The rest of Butler’s column is here. It's superb as are so many of her columns.


I’ll get to the suits in a subsequent post. Here I want to talk about Duke and “moving on.”

Does Duke really expect people who care about how it acted during the witch hunt to “move on” when it’s never given them a chance to be at a place from which they could “move on?”

Until Duke gives people a chance to “be there” when President Brodhead and Trustee Chair Robert Steel fully explain such shocking and deeply offensive behaviors as Brodhead’s refusal to meet with the lacrosse parents and the University’s disgraceful silence when Reade Seligmann was threatened by racists, the only people “moving on” will be those not upset by such behaviors.

If the “move on” people at Duke have their way, the University will have slunk away from one of the most shameful episodes in its history. That’s in some people’s self-interest.

But Duke’s best interests will only be served if it does what great universities do to grow stronger: admit and examine mistakes, determine why the mistakes were made, and then set in place corrective measures and personnel changes to prevent such mistakes in the future.

If Duke does that, it will move on from the Hoax a better university.

If it doesn’t, Duke will, like Marley’s ghost, be forced drag “the chains forged” by its President’s refusal to meet with parents whose sons were in grave legal and physical danger, its silence as racists threatened a Duke student walking to a courthouse in Durham and other equally odious behaviors.

No one who cares about Duke wants that to happen. The trustees must act to make sure it doesn’t.


Jim in San Diego said...

Two suggested personnel and administrative changes:

1. Provost Lange to replace Brodhead at the head of the Duke administration.

2. Professor Coleman to head a committee to recommend campus wide training for Duke students, administration, and faculty, (sort of a la that demanded by the AAS department). However, the curriculum will be called Civics 101, and will include the following mandatory subjects:

1. Why Due Process is so important to our law that it is imbedded in the Constitution.

This would include real-world examples of where failure to follow due process led to grave injustice. Like, for instance, in Durham, North Carolina.

2. Why a long history of injustice and vigilante injustice caused our legal system to adopt "innocent until proven guilty" for all accused.

This would include examples of where failure to follow this principle led to grave injustice. Like, for instance, Durham, North Carolina.

3. Why under our system of justice system defendants have no Burden of Proof, and most certainly have no burden to go to trial to "prove their innocence".

The course would include a discussion of the financial, emotional, and physical costs of forcing a defendant to go to trial, and why our system demands the justice system dismiss claims when there is reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused.

This would include examples of where failure to follow this principle led to the injustice of falsely accused having to pay enormous costs to defend themselves. Like, for instance, Durham, North Carolina.

Attendance should be mandatory. Perhaps it could be a condition of accepting tenure at Duke?

Anonymous said...


Your posts on the Duke Lacrosse Frame just get better and better!

PD Smart

South Africa

Anonymous said...


Great post.

Something else - many of us appreciate your holding the N&O's feet to the fire.

KC Johnson has done more than go soft on the N&O. He's outright distorting what it did.

Did you see his post today?

Anonymous said...


Re: Durham

One flew east and one flew west......