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Thursday, December 14, 2023

A Perfectly Fitting Shoe

The most interesting and enjoyable aspect of this story is not the fact of Bronx Defenders being "roiled" by political controversy and intramural viciousness. In this case it's over the Israel-Hamas conflict, but Bronx Defenders is always roiling. That element of the story has been well covered by others, notably criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield and his blog Simple Justice, for some time. He comments on the latest story here.

Nor, although it's relevant to current controversies and embraces far more than the Gaza story, is the most interesting aspect the broader lesson we might take from it: Institutions with a particular and important goal--such as public defenders' offices but also newspapers, universities, etc.--fare badly when they decide that having one goal is less important than having every goal. That is surely true. When institutions with a particular function and skill decide that the necessary corollary of "everything is connected" is "we should do everything, not just that one thing that we do," they not only fail to do "everything," but also start doing the "one thing" worse. They lose public trust and respect; they potentially harm current clients (the story notes examples of opposing attorneys refusing to treat with Bronx Defenders PDs); they alienate current members of the institution and potential allies; they threaten the institution's continuity and even its existence (the current controversy has put the organization's continued funding at stake; see also "universities, funding and public support of"); and the whole problem accelerates and metastasizes through self-replication (see also "hiring, faculty"). As with last week's events, one doesn't want to draw the wrong moral from the story. It's neither that statements by Bronx Defenders or its union were wrong because they were "hateful" or "unacceptable," nor that the organization shouldn't be "silenced" by the "powerful." It's that institutions should focus on doing what they're good at and avoid "doing someone else’s job and probably doing it badly." 

No, the most interesting and enjoyable aspect of the story is what it reveals in the first three paragraphs: that members of the office were outraged by being forced to sit through a mandatory sensitivity training session.  


Posted by Paul Horwitz on December 14, 2023 at 09:27 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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