Law School Vets Back Military on Recruitment

By Robert Heberle
Special to The Hoya
March 19, 2004

Three law school student veterans organizations filed a brief two weeks ago in federal court supporting the government’s policy of withholding federal money to institutions of higher education that do not allow the military to recruit students on campus.

The brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which is currently considering an appeal by a coalition of law schools to suspend the Solomon Amendment, the statute passed by Congress enacting the current recruitment policy. U.S. District Judge John C. Lifland denied a motion by the law-school coalition last November to immediately allow law schools to bar military recruitment on their campuses but refused the government’s request to throw the case out.

The brief was filed by the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law Veterans Society, Washburn University Veterans Law Association and the College of William & Mary School of Law Military Law Society.

Some law schools, however, argue that allowing military recruitment on their campuses violates the non-discrimination policy of the Association of American Law Schools, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation. The United States’ current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy bans openly homosexual people from serving in the military.

Universities face the loss of millions of dollars in federal funds if they exclude military recruiters under current Department of Defense regulations.

The veterans’ “friend of the court” brief argues that “allowing law schools to exclude military recruiters without facing the consequences provided for in the Solomon Amendment would cause serious harm to the Nation, to those individuals who are now serving or who in the future will be serving in the military, and to law students with an interest in military service.”

The veterans’ groups also argue that lack of JAG lawyers brought about by law school recruitment bans will greatly harm the JAG corps’ ability to “provide effective legal representation to military personnel,” according to a press release.

“The exclusion of military recruiters from on-campus career services programs would cause a significant decrease in the available opportunities for current law students,” according to the brief. The brief also states that veterans enrolled in law school will suffer because of their association with the military if the Solomon Amendment is overturned.

“In light of the military’s increasing recruitment challenges, restricting student access to judge advocate recruiters will virtually guarantee that the military fails to meet its mission,” said Christopher Baker, vice chair of the UCLA School of Law Veterans Society and co-author of the brief.

“Striking the Solomon Amendment down will tarnish the standing of veteran students by casting them as former associates of an institution that is not permitted to recruit at law schools,” he said.

A stricter interpretation of the Solomon Amendment by the Defense Department resulted in new regulations requiring schools, including Georgetown, to allow military recruiters on campus.

The new regulations sparked a series of protests by law professors and students across the country in 2002 and again in October 2003. Students and professors at Georgetown protested again at an event which included military recruiters last October.

“This case is about the freedom of educational institutions, specifically law schools, to shape their own pedagogical environments and to teach, by word and deed, the values they choose, free from government intrusion,” reads the appeal filed in the appeals court by the law school coalition.

“The government might disagree with a law school’s philosophy on discrimination or with the means it chooses to advance this philosophy. But the First Amendment, and the principles of academic freedom that predate it, entitle law schools to make such judgments for themselves, free from government interference,” the appeal continued.

It is unclear whether Georgetown Law Center is a member of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, the coalition of law schools that brought the suit against the government. One law school professor holds a board position on FAIR.

At a Jan. 16 meeting with campus media, University President John J. DeGioia said he was pleased with how the Law Center faculty had engaged the Solomon Amendment debate.

“I think they’ve shown responsibility,” he said. “I’ve been very, very pleased with the way they’ve addressed this very challenging issue.”

Coalitions of law professors and students have also filed suit against the current Solomon policy since FAIR filed the initial lawsuit in September.