In Defense of the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Professor Paul Cassell
By Ken K. Gourdin
A poster by the screen name of SmellTheCoffee at The Salt Lake Tribune’s on-line comment boards apparently is upset that the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah’s Professor Paul Cassell had the temerity to defend former West Valley City (Utah) Detective Shaun Cowley against charges relating to the death of Danielle Willard. I defended Professor Cassell in print (see the link below, this and all subsequent links last accessed January 6, 2014):
As for the case that spawned the poster’s tirade against Cassell, see here:
Professor Cassell is not a native Utahn; he was born in California. So even if (so granting solely for the sake of this discussion) you are correct that he’s an embarrassment to this state and to its flagship university, at worst, he’s a mere transplanted embarrassment. I assume you are upset with him because he had the temerity to defend Shaun Cowley. If that is so, then I have to ask, rhetorically, if you would be willing to forego what Shaun Cowley got if you had been accused of a crime, even though you would be constitutionally entitled to it: the most vigorous, zealous defense allowed by the law and by the canons of legal ethics. You seem perfectly willing to excoriate Professor Cassell simply for daring to stand up for Shaun Cowley; are you equally willing to excoriate Professor Dershowitz for standing up for O.J. Simpson? If not, why the double standard? (Apparently, it would be OK with you if it were Shaun Cowley’s ox being gored, but what if it were yours?)
Professor Cassell could, if he were inclined to do so, write his own ticket onto the law faculty of any university in the nation. For example, Professor Cassell is a graduate of Stanford University Law School, where his erstwhile faculty colleague at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, Michael W. McConnell, now directs the Constitutional Law Center. I’m sure Professor McConnell wouldn’t hesitate to vouch for Professor Cassell’s admission to the Stanford faculty (or even to go so far as to carve out a position for him) if Professor Cassell decided he wanted to go there. There are any number of people who disagree with Professor Cassell politically, or who disagree with positions he has taken (either generally or in specific cases), who, nonetheless, respect him as a smart, principled adversary. He is very well respected in judicial, legal, and academic circles even by people who disagree with him.
Those who know Professor Cassell well (whatever they think of his political or legal leanings) respect him as a thoughtful, careful advocate and former jurist. It is very unlikely that Professor Cassell would cavalierly risk that reputation by signing his name to a legal pleading that contains bad information, or that he would advocate any position he did not feel confident he could successfully prove in court according to the relevant evidentiary standard. And Professor Dershowitz, likewise, will get his day in court, will be represented by an equally thoughtful, careful, zealous, advocate, and will have the relevant facts weighed by a neutral arbiter, who then will render an appropriate decision.