A group of 38 Harvard Law School professors have signed a letter “in support of” Law School professor emeritus Alan M. Dershowitz, who was recently accused of having sexual relations with a minor who was allegedly trafficked by billionaire Jeffrey E. Epstein.
In the letter, the professors argue that Dershowitz was unable to directly respond to the recent allegations in a legal setting, citing the fact that he does not have standing in the civil case in which the allegations of sexual misconduct were first filed and that Dershowitz denies.
“Responding to highly destructive and highly publicized allegations requires finding a forum that can credibly resolve the disputed facts,” they wrote. “The courts should not be used to make such attacks while preventing any effective response.”
The civil court case in which the allegations surfaced challenges a plea deal that Dershowitz helped to negotiate for Epstein, who pleaded guilty in state court to soliciting prostitution, but per the plea deal, avoided federal prosecution. Dershowitz is not named as a defendant in the civil case, but has filed to intervene in the case to protect his “reputational interest.”
A group of three Law School faculty members—Nancy Gertner, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., and Philip B. Heymann—began the effort to write the letter in support of their colleague late last week, Gertner and Heymann said. Initially, 36 Law School faculty members had signed the letter when Gertner shared it with The Crimson early Thursday morning, and two more—Charles R. Nesson ’60 and Lewis D. Sargentich—have added their names since.
In an interview, Heymann said he took issue with how “Jane Doe No. 3’s” lawyers presented their allegations against Dershowitz.
« [The allegations have] been set up, either purposely or by accident, I don’t know which, in a way that denies him all opportunity to defend his reputation [in court], » Heymann said, adding that « he can say it, but to have the [charges] resolved officially [in court] has been put out of reach. »
The professors’ letter comes just after “Jane Doe No. 3” signed a sworn affidavit reaffirming her earlier allegations in a court filing submitted in response to Dershowitz’s intervention motion.
Gertner and Heymann said they were not aware that “Jane Doe No. 3” had filed the sworn affidavit when they released the letter, but Gertner said she still would have signed it if she had known about the affidavit. She said the issue at hand is Dershowitz’s ability to respond to the allegations and defend himself.
In an interview, Dershowitz said he was thankful to his colleagues for voicing their support.
“I appreciate their willingness to support me in a time of difficulty,” he said.
The letter is not the first time in recent months that a group of Law School professors has spoken out publicly about those accused of sexual misconduct. In October, a group of 28 Law School professors wrote an open letter to The Boston Globe criticizing Harvard’s University-wide sexual harassment policy and procedures.
Heymann said that in his tenure at the Law School, he has never seen as many faculty members sign an open letter as the 38 signatories supporting Dershowitz.