Joshua Rosenkranz discusses Rumsfeld v. FAIR from his perspective as lead counsel

New York appellate attorney Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick shares his experience as a lead counsel in Rumsfeld v. FAIR, suit challenging, on First Amendment grounds, the Solomon Amendment, a federal law requiring academic institutions to assist military recruiters.

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So the story that comes to mind when you ask that question was – so this is back in 2003. I was brand new in private practice, and I had just brought in a pro bono case which was representing the mayor of New Paltz, who is being criminally prosecuted for solemnizing marriages without a license. It was used in performing gay marriages. And then I had this opportunity to bring the challenge to the Solomon Amendment, which from my experience having come out of an academic environment when I was at the Brennan Center, I knew was ripping campuses apart. So I came into a partner meeting as a brand new partner, and I said, “Great news. I’ve got 36 law schools and 900 law professors signed up to challenge this horrible statute.” And they all said, “Are you out of your mind? There is not a population of people on the face of the earth with as little respect for the value of time as law professors.”

It turned out to be a great experience. We had a steering committee of about a dozen. They were intensely focused on legal theory, on presentation. And one of the things I most pride myself on is not being the smartest person in the room – not that I’m proud that I’m not as smart as the other people – but just on being willing to listen and incorporate the best of various people’s ideas. And one of the things that I’ve learned over the years is great ideas come from all quarters, including from really smart people it turns out. But, mainly, people want to be heard. They want to know that their opinions have been thought about in some way and that you’ve got a respectful, thoughtful answer if you are rejecting them. And it really – it took time, but it was a very rewarding experience.