Notre Dame President Emeritus Calls on House Judiciary Chairman and U.S. Attorney General to Meet with Embattled Legal Reform Activist

Share Article

Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana, recently wrote U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. and Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of Notre Dame graduate and good government advocate, Zena Crenshaw-Logal. Noting that he welcomed President Barack Obama to the university's campus for its 2009 commencement address but had yet to meet them, Hesburgh encouraged Representative Conyers and Attorney General Holder to meet with Zena, describing her as "a young woman with whom I have much in common." Hesburgh wrote Conyers and Holder upon learning of Zena's troubles following her public challenge, "with substantial community support (of alleged) bias by courts of Lake County, Indiana . . ."

Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana, recently wrote U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. and Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of Notre Dame graduate and good government advocate, Zena Crenshaw-Logal. Noting that he welcomed President Barack Obama to the university's campus for its 2009 commencement address but had yet to meet them, Hesburgh encouraged Representative Conyers and Attorney General Holder to meet with Zena, describing her as "a young woman with whom I have much in common."

Reverend or Father Hesburgh as he is also known, has been a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross since 1943. He served as Notre Dame's president from 1952 to 1987; accepted sixteen presidential appointments in the interim, including to chair the U.S. Civil Rights Commission; remains a national and international figure at more than 90 years of age; and is arguably the best known educator of the twentieth century. Hesburgh's 150 or so honorary degrees stand as a Guinness Book record. Added to his awards are the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and West Point's distinguished Sylvanus Thayer Award.

Zena wrote Father Hesburgh after he spoke this summer at a dinner honoring her and others during Notre Dame's "2009 Black Alumni Triennial Reunion". Zena's letter to Hesburgh overviews problems following her public challenge, "with substantial community support (of alleged) bias by courts of Lake County, Indiana against minority lawyers prosecuting relatively complex, potentially lucrative personal injuries claims." Zena asserts "(i)n the process our clients experienced staggering losses in increasingly unpopular personal injury matters such as civil rights cases and marginalized victories in routine personal injury disputes such as those premised on minor auto accidents."

The specter of judicial and political bias prompted the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Conyers, to investigate the U.S. Department of Justice. In an October 2007 letter, political insider Paul Minor made an impassioned plea, claiming only Conyer's committee ". . . can help (him, i.e. Minor) prove that the Bush Justice Department's prosecution of (him) and Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr., and Judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield was politically motivated." The U.S. House of Representatives is addressing the high profile Mississippi prosecutions and convictions as evidenced by a joint hearing this summer on "Allegations of Selective Prosecution: The Erosion of Public Confidence in Our Federal Justice System".    

Writing as Executive Director of the grassroots reform group known as POPULAR (Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored), Zena points out in a February 2009 letter to Conyers that "(w)ealthy or once wealthy lawyers such as Minor (not to mention former coroners, governors, and judges) are better positioned to correct trial and/or appellate error without legislative action than most American litigants, respondents, and defendants." In fact teaming with the ACORN 8, a nonprofit organization characterized as the people's movement to reform ACORN, Zena explained by press release that "relative lack of wealth literally defines the most vulnerable segment of American society", noting "(w)hen it comes to resources for effectively fighting serious corruption, the overwhelming majority of Americans are poor; not in the sense of being impoverished, but as compared to certain corrupt forces we are compelled to resist."

In his referenced letter, Minor suggests various reasons why a federal judge's handling of his second trial may have been outcome determinative. Zena subsequently advised Chairman Conyers that "(s)uch questioning of the judiciary substantially curtailed if not ended the legal career of every POPULAR founder outside of our advisory board members". Largely at Zena's behest, renowned civil rights activist and former constitutional law professor Thomas N. Todd, called on Conyers to pursue a national administrative agency to regulate speech among lawyers. In August 2007 Todd explained that the reality of 50 different states providing "various interpretations of the federal standard" for a lawyer's free speech can spawn local abuse and a "chilling effect"; particularly when lawyers represent "very, very unpopular clients, . . . as they did in the South."

A March 2009 Washington Post op-ed mused that "(t)he president is . . . trapped between these two realms - - the governing elites who decide things and the people who are governed", asking "(w)hich side is he on?" According to Zena the answer remains to be seen, but she adds "it speaks volumes that only Father Hesburgh intervened; this despite an era of change personified by President Obama, attorney Todd's earlier rallying for First Amendment protections, and the numerous domestic and international leaders I beseeched for the proverbial little guy."

An online newsroom of POPULAR and the ACORN 8 links to detailed accounts of what Zena describes as "compelling pleas for assistance that at best prompted form letters declining investigation by federal authorities." The socio-economic background of those featured seeking help is so diverse that Zena defines the group as "Americans, grappling for justice without the benefit of wealth and prestige beyond accomplishments substantially stripped by arguable abuses of power and certainly under questionable circumstances." That common denominator inspired an op-ed by Zena, concluding in response to the announced fortification of Holder's Civil Rights Division that "(a)nyone legitimately pressing beyond local officials to our federal government for relief, needs a DOJ committed to First Amendment as much if not more than anti-discrimination enforcement."

To read Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh's letter to Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of Zena Crenshaw-Logal and learn more about POPULAR as well as the ACORN 8, visit http://www.popular4people.org/OLTW_newsroom.html

###

Share article on socal media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

ZENA CRENSHAW
Visit website