John Roberts bankrupts law students

The Supreme Court justice is paid thousands to "teach" in Europe -- and his law students are footing the bill

Topics: Supreme Court, John Roberts, law school, student loans, Ireland, Malta, Debt, Editor's Picks,

John Roberts bankrupts law studentsChief Justice John Roberts (Credit: AP/Alan Diaz)

Any privileged person in this country who wants to remain complacent about the social status quo would be well-advised not to consider exactly where his money comes from. Here’s a small but telling example. Federal judges are required to file disclosure forms regarding other sources of income they may have besides their federal salaries and benefits. A glance at Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2009 form  (the most recent available to the public) reveals the following entry:

“New England School of Law, Summer Program, Galway, Ireland – teaching stipend: $15,000.”

Another part of the form reveals that the same school reimbursed Roberts for his airfare, meals and lodging for at least the two-week period during which the course — on the history of the Supreme Court — was held.  Roberts co-taught the course, which met seven times for two-hour periods, with a law professor, Richard Lazarus.

Roberts and Lazarus taught the same course on the scenic island of Malta last summer, and will do so again amid the charming old world architecture of Prague this July.  (Lazarus did not respond to my request for information regarding what he was being paid to teach the course or how responsibility for teaching and grading it was divided between himself and the chief justice).

Now it might seem petty to inquire too closely into such matters.  After all, Roberts no doubt took a very large pay cut when he left a fancy law firm to become chief justice (although his $220,000 salary for eight months of work – a salary he will receive for life should he choose to retire – hardly signifies a vow of poverty).

The problem is not so much that Roberts is being paid $1,000 an hour to teach a fluffy course on Great Moments in Supreme Court Argument, or that he is in effect getting an all-expenses-paid European vacation every summer (first-class airfare from Washington to Prague is nearly $12,000). It’s that this annual fringe benefit is being paid for by tax dollars, which are first funneled through law students, who are financially wrecking themselves by borrowing those dollars to pay for useless degrees.

Here’s how it works:  The course Roberts  teaches is offered through a consortium of four law schools that, whatever the justification they may have once had for existing, have devolved into brazen diploma mills.  The four schools offer summer study programs that are essentially student-loan funded vacations for their students, who, if they were going to law schools worth attending, would be working for potential future long-term legal employers in the summer, rather than traipsing around Europe and adding to their enormous debt loads.



Graduates of these schools are currently graduating with an average of more than $150,000 in educational debt – almost all of it in the form of taxpayer-backed loans, a significant percentage of which will never be paid back.  They will never be paid back because, by my calculations, a total of 29 of the 1,282 people who graduated from these schools in 2011 acquired jobs that pay salaries that would make it possible for someone to actually service the average debt graduates of these schools are incurring.  (By contrast, nearly 20 percent of the schools’ graduates appeared to be completely unemployed, which suggests strongly that, for a large proportion of these people, their $150,000 taxpayer-funded degrees are worse than worthless.)

I don’t doubt that Chief Justice Roberts remains blissfully ignorant about the precise means by which several tens of thousands of dollars in what will prove to be unrecoverable student loan debt ends up getting funneled to him each summer.  And it is certainly a fair point that a non-trivial portion of my own salary is funded through similar channels. (We are all, as a famous philosopher once noted, part of the same hypocrisy.)

Still, to paraphrase another legal philosopher, ignorance of the loan is no excuse.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>