Alan Dershowitz threatens to sue UC Berkeley and gets results

Alan Dershowitz is a legendary lawyer, now retired as a professor at Harvard Law School, who has taken up the issue of free speech on campus.  Encountering a university policy that required outside speakers without an invitation from an academic department (for instance, invited by a student group) to endure an eight-week waiting period for scheduling a talk, he smelled a rat and threatened to sue. 

Dershowitz said the sponsors of his visit, the Chabad Jewish Student Center and the pro-Israel student club Tikvah, had been turned down by several departments as a sponsor of his talk, and that he was trying to find out if any of those departments had sponsored "anti-Israel speakers" in the past.

"If they have, that presents a serious constitutional question for Berkeley," Dershowitz said. "If a department has a policy of never sponsoring a speaker, that would be one thing. But if there's content discrimination, that would be illegal under the First Amendment."

So common are anti-Israel speakers that it was all but certain that Dershowitz had a case.  And the next move from the university seems to suggest so:

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said he will be speaking at the University of California, Berkeley in two weeks, after receiving an invitation from the institution's law school that allows him to bypass a campus rule requiring eight weeks notice for such a speech.

Dershowitz said in a phone interview Friday that he will speak at the law school on October 10, following an invitation from Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, and that he is continuing to seek a department to host him so he can speak elsewhere on campus.

Dean Chemerinsky is a left-wing legal scholar but a reasonable man.  I am fairly certain he did not relish a courtroom showdown with Dershowitz.  His invitation makes moot any complaint that Dershowitz might lodge in court but leaves in place the policy that disadvantages speakers not invited by departments.  Given the extreme political imbalance among faculty, the policy may be a de facto discriminatory practice.  But another litigant will be required to attack it.

Alan Dershowitz is a legendary lawyer, now retired as a professor at Harvard Law School, who has taken up the issue of free speech on campus.  Encountering a university policy that required outside speakers without an invitation from an academic department (for instance, invited by a student group) to endure an eight-week waiting period for scheduling a talk, he smelled a rat and threatened to sue. 

Dershowitz said the sponsors of his visit, the Chabad Jewish Student Center and the pro-Israel student club Tikvah, had been turned down by several departments as a sponsor of his talk, and that he was trying to find out if any of those departments had sponsored "anti-Israel speakers" in the past.

"If they have, that presents a serious constitutional question for Berkeley," Dershowitz said. "If a department has a policy of never sponsoring a speaker, that would be one thing. But if there's content discrimination, that would be illegal under the First Amendment."

So common are anti-Israel speakers that it was all but certain that Dershowitz had a case.  And the next move from the university seems to suggest so:

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said he will be speaking at the University of California, Berkeley in two weeks, after receiving an invitation from the institution's law school that allows him to bypass a campus rule requiring eight weeks notice for such a speech.

Dershowitz said in a phone interview Friday that he will speak at the law school on October 10, following an invitation from Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, and that he is continuing to seek a department to host him so he can speak elsewhere on campus.

Dean Chemerinsky is a left-wing legal scholar but a reasonable man.  I am fairly certain he did not relish a courtroom showdown with Dershowitz.  His invitation makes moot any complaint that Dershowitz might lodge in court but leaves in place the policy that disadvantages speakers not invited by departments.  Given the extreme political imbalance among faculty, the policy may be a de facto discriminatory practice.  But another litigant will be required to attack it.

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