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Lawyer questions intent of ‘Leader in the Law’ choice

Dear Editor:

It’s a great honor to be selected by the Virginia Lawyers Media as a “Leader in the Law,” and my congratulations go to the class of 2015, a distinguished group of honorees.

One selection surprised me, however, not for want of a distinguished legal career, but because of his recent high visibility as an outspoken critic of the leadership of the bar.

After then-President Martingayle and then-President-Elect Weiner cancelled the bar’s planned trip to Israel, this honoree accused them of joining the enemies of Israel.

The leadership had cancelled the trip for a far more pragmatic reason – it was significantly under-subscribed. As the deadline approached only 17 of a needed 60 had applied.

Yes, a number of bar members had also asked that the trip be cancelled because of Israel’s history of subjecting Arab-American tourists to different standards for admission, including confiscation of laptops and other electronic equipment. Our Department of State confirmed that our Arab-American members would not be processed for admission under the same protocols as our non Arab-American members, and might be refused entry or be made subject to other hardships. The bar wisely and appropriately cancelled the trip.

That, in the honoree’s view, allied the VSB with the enemies of Israel, and he unleashed a verbal assault on the bar leadership which many characterized as abusive and vituperative, accusing the bar leadership of embracing “marginal, committed anti-Israel sources” to support its decision, sources which embraced “anti-Semitism in a thinly disguised, modern costume”. He linked the leadership’s decision to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, despite the absence of any such linkage and accused the VSB of standing “shoulder to shoulder with a movement …(which) stands as amongst the primary purveyors of anti-Semitic hatred”.

Now he is to be honored as a “Leader in the Law” and we are left to interpret Virginia Lawyers Media’s intendment. Is he to receive that recognition: 1. to honor his attack on the bar leadership, or 2. to be honored despite that attack? Perhaps his behavior on that occasion was an anomaly on an otherwise distinguished legal career. The timing, however, is curious and suggests that VLM may be tacitly endorsing his position.

Robert T. Hall

[Editor’s Note: Virginia Lawyers Media stands behind its Leaders in the Law program, and behind its selection of its honorees. A lawyer’s selection as a Leader is not intended as an endorsement of any particular position or action that person has taken.]

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