‘Without lawyers, we have no democracy.’ Law deans offer up Jan. 6 lessons

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump riot to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

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  • 14 law deans collaborated on a book breaking down the Capitol insurrection
  • They hope it will be used to create new classes highlighting the role of lawyers in protecting the rule of law

(Reuters) – New York Law School dean Anthony Crowell was driving to Florida on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob broke into the U.S. Capitol to disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results.

He pulled into a suburban Virginia parking lot as the events unfolded across the Potomac and tried to express his outrage and dismay in an email to his law school community. Across the country, other legal educators were also grappling with how to respond.

In the days that followed, a theme emerged in discussions among several law deans: Democracy is fragile, and “without lawyers — what they are charged to do and the constitutional oath they take — we have no democracy,” Crowell said in an interview.

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Deans from 171 law schools condemned the attack in an open letter. Then Mark Alexander, dean of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, assembled a group of them to write a book about the events.

The result, “Beyond Imagination? The January 6 Insurrection,” is being released this week and includes chapters on leadership, electoral politics, racism and the role of law schools in educating attorneys committed to upholding the rule of law.

Alexander told Reuters he hopes the book will become the foundation for new law school classes, as well as continuing legal education sessions for lawyers.

A chapter by Suffolk University Law School dean Andrew Perlman highlights the potential legal consequences for lawyers who promoted 2020 election conspiracies. University of Pennsylvania law dean Ted Ruger’s chapter examines the actions of states attorneys general in the election. Rutgers Law School co-dean Kimberly Mutcherson explores the insurrection’s ties to racism.

Crowell’s chapter focuses on the weakening of civics education in the United States, warning that law schools can no longer assume their students arrive with a solid understanding of how our government and democracy function. Alexander’s explores next steps for legal educators and the legal profession in the wake of the attack.

“This book is a chance for us to stay with the Jan. 6 insurrection and have a call to action for how we can support democracy and the rule of law,” he said.

Read more:

Biden to speak ‘truth’ on Jan 6 anniversary; Trump cancels event

U.S. House panel probing Jan 6 Capitol attack seeks information from Sean Hannity

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