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Carl Bogus probably wouldn’t be voted most popular lawyer in Rhode Island — but he might just grab the award as gutsiest. The Roger Williams University School of Law professor recently penned a law review article slamming Rhode Island judges for being overly sensitive and sometimes punishing lawyers who cross them with sanctions and fines. The article doesn’t spare lawyers either, accusing them of fearing judges’ wrath to the point of cozying up to them to win them over. The 46-page article, published in the school’s law review, has struck a nerve with the university’s top brass. In a rare move, some school administrators have issued statements distancing themselves and the school from the article. Bogus didn’t pull any punches in the article, writing: “Saying that lawyers treat judges with deference fails to capture the interaction; it is more accurate to say that lawyers bow and scrape. Some lawyers have elevated fawning to an art form, pulling it off with subtle elegance. Others are grotesquely obsequious. But few tell a judge she is wrong.” In an interview, Bogus, a tenured professor who teaches torts, products liability, evidence and administrative law, asserted that the “big issue is that there is a taboo against criticism of government institutions by members of the legal community.” VERY CAREFUL STATEMENTS University officials, many of whom had seen the article before publication, quickly released statements cautioning the legal and academic community about the piece. In a statement dated June 24, two days after the article was published, Roy Nirschel, the university president, wrote: “There are those who, at times, use a university or one of its outlets and good offices to advance a partisan or ideological agenda. As citizens they have that right to expression. But it should be made abundantly clear that those who use the University as a forum are doing so as individual authors and advocates and do not reflect the views of the University, its administration, or its Board of Trustees.” David Logan, the dean of the law school, neither condemned nor praised Bogus’ article. He said Bogus gave him a copy of it before it was published, but he made no editorial suggestions. He did, however, issue a statement explaining that Bogus was merely exercising his academic freedoms in writing the article. “I wrote an effort to explain why when a professor takes a whack at an institution … it’s an independent scholar reaching a conclusion he wants to reach,” Logan said. “I’m neither trying to embrace it or distance myself. It is what it is.” But was Bogus right in his assertions? “I would never take an opinion about whether one of my colleagues was right with his conclusion,” Logan said. “But he did strike a nerve.” John Roney, past president of the Rhode Island Bar Association, blasted Bogus’ article, saying it was “very thin” and poorly documented. “You start reading the article and you say to yourself, ‘Where’s the beef?’ His criticism didn’t stick,” said Roney, of Roney & Labinger in Providence, R.I. “I think he took six incidents over a 20-year period and tried to build a culture. I don’t think he made his case.” Roney said lawyers reacted defensively to the article, largely because Bogus, who practiced law for 18 years in Philadelphia, never practiced law in their state. “Criticism from an outsider isn’t seldom well taken,” Roney said. “I think there’s a sense that perhaps he is not in the best position to evaluate us.” He added, “Criticism from law schools is important. But it should be well documented.” Bogus said he cited nine examples over the last eight years that illustrated how judges used their power to keep lawyers quiet. He said that the three most serious incidents occurred in the federal district court, where lawyers in two cases were punished with sanctions, fined and sent to ethics classes for filing motions for recusal. A third was punished by being thrown off a case in mid-trial for including a sentence in a memorandum that a judge interpreted as criticism, he said. In his article, Bogus criticized federal judges Ronald R. Lagueux and Mary Lisi, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob Hagopian, all of whom declined to comment. He also criticized retired U.S. District Chief Judge Francis Boyle, who could not be reached for comment. Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Frank Williams, who was also targeted in the piece, issued a statement saying “[T]his administration has been completely open to suggestions and constructive criticism. Our judiciary has benefited from such openness.”

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