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Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Message from Dean Gerken on Yesterday’s Events in Washington, D.C.

Dean Heather K. Gerken sent an email to the Yale Law School community on January 7, 2021.

To the Members of the Community,

We are all still absorbing the terrible events that took place in the Capitol yesterday. The peaceful transition of power is the touchstone for any democracy. What we witnessed was an assault on democracy and the rule of law.

As President Salovey wrote last night, “now more than ever, we must commit ourselves to placing the Constitution and the preservation of our cherished democratic traditions above partisan preference and political advantage.” It is essential that lawyers and legal institutions stand up for the core commitments of our profession, the Constitution, and our democracy. We cannot tolerate behavior that threatens the safety and security of our citizens or that erodes faith in our elections and institutions. 

The 2020 Presidential Election was free and fair. The results have been amply scrutinized, and more than 60 legal challenges have failed. While we as lawyers will not object to the good-faith pursuit of appropriate legal remedies, we can never condone lies, frivolous claims, or the failure to accept a legitimate result, particularly from our elected officials. 

Truth is as essential to our democracy as it is to the legal processes that help sustain it. Yesterday was a shameful moment in our history and a terrible reminder of how much work there is left to do to build a democracy worthy of our ideals.

Heather K. Gerken