Friday, October 20, 2006

Sense and sensibilities

So, after the facts are out, here's my take on the whole Moot Court thing.

Do I think Moot Court intended to be racist?

Do I think Moot Court tried (but failed miserably) to be funny?

Do I think Moot Court was wrong nonetheless?

The original problem, as posted my matthewb, shows a amateurish attempt to be funny, but they totally misjudged that the problem would be offensive. The Moot Court executive board is composed of 3Ls, and the problem showed a lack of professional judgment that they will need in their high powered litigation firms that many will undoubtedly join in less than a year. I'm a firm believer in personal responsibility, so to be negligent in writing up a problem and not thinking about the potential reaction it would cause is unbecoming of any responsible adult.

Even if the harm was unintentional, the Moot Court offended common sensibilities by using typical stereotypes of Mexicans, a bad situation anywhere, but compounded by doing so in a state where Mexicans will soon constitute an absolute majority.

I'm glad that Moot Court apologized and revised the fall problem. Again, I think that the whole uproar here was caused largely by the Dean for informing all 1,000 students about it--but I understand that it was the politically correct thing to do and for the need of the Dean to cover his own rear end.

I'm also grateful that UCLA is still more laid back than most schools, and most people here just gave a shrug to the entire situation. The few vocal ones have calmed down, and I'm happy we're back to laid-back SoCal sensibilities, and that a UT-like reaction has not occurred,

Concluding thought...
So, after the offending 3L Moot Court executive board realized that their problem set caused problems--after they were called out by students, faculty, and the Dean himself--what do you think was their immediate first reaction?

Was it "Oh, geez, I'm so sorry that I've offended people with these insensitive remarks. How do I go about making amends"?

Or was their immediate gut reaction, "Crap, I hope my 2L summer employer doesn't find out about this and revoke their offer?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what "typical stereotypes" of Mexicans (or Mexican-Americans) emerge from the facts.

I don't think that people from Mexico are typically considered to be child molesters. So, it's not that.

And, even if one contends that people from Mexico stereotypically drink too much, the use of brands of alcohol for the names of people doesn't really seem related to that; "El Guapo" himself is not portrayed as a drunk. Moreover, the names of alcohol span the entire spectrum: Beefeater, Martini? It's not like everyone was named Jose Cuervo, right? That one's a stretch, I think.

Other than that, what other stereotypes are included in the facts?

On a more general note, if members of a particular ethnic group are stereotyped as possessing a particular trait, does that mean you are never allowed to portray a member of that group as possessing that trait in a novel, movie, or law school fact pattern? Even when some members of that population do actually possess that trait? I feel that at some point, that attitude becomes self-defeating -- can you never have a black criminal on a cop show? Has anyone looked at all past moot court problems to see if a Mexican or Mexican-American has ever been portrayed as a lawyer, doctor, police officer, judge, etc.? You can't really look at a single moment in time.

Really, when you put to one side the child molester aspect (which is sort of irrelevant, I think), here's the complaint: a Mexican guy was put in a fact pattern where other people in the fact pattern (and a physical location, I think) were named after brands of alcohol...

10:55 AM  
Blogger The Fox said...

That it was simply a collection of disparate facts is not a defense against that as a whole, the facts (inadvertently I grant) causes Mexicans to be portrayed not in the best of light.

I do not have the same severe reaction as the BLSA, APILSA, and La Raza. As you hopefully understood from my tone of the argument, I'm more against the fact that it was not an appropriate fact pattern, despite its pedagogical purposes, for the purposes of Moot Court, which represents students to alumni, faculty, judges, and employers.

In the real world, such indiscretion, at the very least, shows that the writer is not a trustworthy, honest, and sensible lawyer, and in the worst case scenario, will get them fired by their employer.

I see from your IP address that we've had debates before. If what they did was in your own opinion not that wrong, why has no 3L executive board member from Moot Court, instead of readily admitting fault and remedying the situation, come out and written a signed, unequivocal defense of the original problem?

Isn’t their admission a mea culpa?

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a perfectly appropriate fact pattern. The facts don't cause Mexicans as a whole to be portrayed as anything. La Raza read that in themselves. The major indescretion was on La Raza's part as well when they made wild and unsubstantiated accusations of racism. Because people like you and the Dean coddle this kind of behavior, they will perceive themselves as oppressed victims throughout their lives.

Is moot court's admission a mea culpa? No. It's simply taking the path of least resistance. It takes chitzpah to stand up to the Dean and irrational La Raza types.

11:47 PM  
Blogger The Fox said...

Read over my argument carefully: I never defended La Raza. I think there was an over-reaction. Same over-reaction would have occured had the hypo involving a Jewish person put in the context of the typical stereotypes, or involving a black person using the typical stereotypes. That La Raza overreacted does not make Moot Court right. (I'm not sure where you got the belief that I coddle La Raza's type of behavior).

It takes chitzpah to stand up to the Dean and irrational La Raza types: isn't that what future litigators (this is Moot Court after all) are supposed to do? Don't lawyers sometimes take unpopular stands?

The better argument you could have made: no one in Moot Court wants to defend the opinion (even if they thought it was fine) because it's not a popular stance to take, and they're afraid that having their name associated with it might come back to bite them in the arse in twenty years when they are being nominated for a COA judgeship.

1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Read over my argument carefully: I never defended La Raza. I think there was an over-reaction. Same over-reaction would have occured had the hypo involving a Jewish person put in the context of the typical stereotypes, or involving a black person using the typical stereotypes."

I don't think you ever mentioned that you thought La Raza overreacted. Yet you did mention that Moot Court was wrong.

Jewish or black or Mexican students should get pissed off when offensive stereotypes are used. The point is that offensive stereotypes were not used here. I do agree, however, that black students most likely would have had the same reaction to an analogous problem. I don't believe that Jewish students would have. You can disagree of course based on your knowledge of the respective communities.

5:36 PM  

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