Along with 1,400 other law professors, I signed a letter opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. As a law professor, I signed this letter because of my concerns about maintaining the integrity of the legal system.
Shortly after the law professors’ letter was published, my university counsel’s office got an Open Records Act request seeking my emails.
The request, from a reporter working for a conservative political publication, sought: “a copy of each email (inbound, outbound, deleted, or double deleted) for the university email accounts of Andrea A. Curcio and [a colleague who also signed the letter] from the dates of December 15, 2016, to and including January 3, 2017, which includes any of the keywords “Sessions,” or “Jeff Sessions” or “Attorney General.””
A similar request was sent to university counsel for law professor signatories working at other public institutions.
Open records requests are a key to governmental transparency. Being personally subjected to one is unnerving.
How do you avoid such a request if you work at a public law school? You stay silent. Non-involvement with anything in the least bit controversial helps protect you from the possibility that anyone will ever ask to see the content of your emails.
I have often asked myself the theoretical question: if I had lived in Nazi Germany, or in the McCarthy era, would I have remained silent or would I have taken the risk and spoken up. That question is no longer theoretical.
Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day reminds us of the courage of those who stood up for what they believed was right. Today we again have a very visible choice about whether to step off the curb or to let fear silence us.
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