Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Courage, Justice, and the Fortunate Seat in the Car [UPDATED]
For a few years, I have been a fan of the arguments of Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford. He is a brilliant, forward-thinking, legal pioneer in intellectual property. His blog is one of the first I ever read, notable for its passion, its overt search for positions of integrity, its ambition to change the way we think about copyright in the digital age, and its occasional especially honest moments of self-deprecation and doubt.

Witness this recent post, in which he laments the pressures he puts on himself in public speaking, the extent of his travels away from home, and his decision to agree to less engagements to see more of his wife and his very young son in person. All this from a man that may turn out to be the most significant legal scholar of the turn of this century. Done right, weblogs allow this kind of get-to-know-you-even-though-I-don't-know-you (non)intimacy. So it was especially heartening and touching to learn that he is also a strong and courageous person, as he awaits the New Jersey State Supreme Court's decision in Hardwicke v. American Boychoir School, an appeal he himself argued, against a school he himself attended as a young teenager.
During his work on the case, Lessig has been asked more than once by the press if he had experiences at the school similar to Hardwicke’s. And Lessig has replied, “My experiences aren’t what’s at issue here. What’s at issue is what happened to John Hardwicke.”

The answer is appropriate, politic—but it’s not entirely true. For Lessig has told me that he too was abused at the Boychoir School, and by the same music director that Hardwicke claims was one of his abusers. Lessig is by nature a shy, intensely private person. The fact of his abuse is known to almost no one: not the reporters covering the case, not the supreme-court justices. The fact of his abuse isn’t even known to Larry Lessig’s parents.

In taking this case, however, Lessig has cast aside his caution about a secret that haunts him still. And while his passion about his client’s cause is real and visceral, Hardwicke isn’t the only plaintiff here. Lessig is also litigating on behalf of the child he once was.
The entire story, in the New York Metro, is a must-read, both for those who, upon enduring life's collisions, have felt the brunt of the painful seats in the car, and those who manage to emerge, unharmed, from a fortunate seat.

[UPDATE 1: On his blog, Prof. Lessig posts briefly on the article]

[UPDATE 2: Plaintiff John Hardwicke posts a comment here at Article 19, so be sure to read those, but the article first.]

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