The e-mail arrived unbidden four years ago, bearing the stamp of a sender whose name he didn't recognize. All the message said was, "Are you the Lawrence Lessig who went to the Boychoir School?"It had been a long time since anyone had identified the Stanford Law School professor that way. But it was true: From 1972 to 1976, Lessig had spent his sixth-through-ninth-grade years at the American Boychoir School in Princeton.So Lessig wrote back, "Yeah, I'm the guy who went to the Boychoir School. What's up?" And with that, he opened up a closed doorway to his past—and found himself swept right through it.Now, on the last Monday of November 2004, Lessig has just arrived at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton, New Jersey. He is here to make an argument before the Supreme Court of New Jersey. His client, the plaintiff, is his e-mail correspondent. The defendant is their alma mater.Since its founding in 1937, the nonsectarian Boychoir School has gained worldwide renown for producing a choir rivaled only by the more famous one in Vienna; its kids have sung for presidents, popes, and behind Beyoncé at this year's Academy Awards. But now Lessig's client, John Hardwicke, is claiming that in the seventies, the school was a ghoulish sanctuary for the sexual abuse of children. In his two years there, Hardwicke says he was repeatedly molested and raped—induced, as the brief on his behalf to the state supreme court puts it, to "perform virtually every sexual act that could conceivably have been accomplished between two males"—by the music director, the headmaster, the proctor, and the cook.This is not the sort of case for which Larry Lessig is famous. At forty-three, Lessig has built a reputation as the king of Internet law and as the most important next-wave thinker on intellectual property. The author of three influential books on the intersection of law, politics, and digital technology, he's the founder of Creative Commons, an ambitious attempt to forge an alternative to the current copyright regime. According to his mentor, the federal appellate judge Richard Posner, Lessig is "the most distinguished law professor of his generation." He's also a celebrity. On a West Wing episode this winter, he was featured as a character. "The Elvis of cyberlaw" is how Wired has described him.I have known Lessig well, professionally and socially, for nearly five years. I've never seen him look as nervous as he does this morning. Dressed in a dark suit, his hair slicked back, tiny wire-rims perched on his nose, he moves slowly, ponderously, as if the weight of the stakes in the case is resting literally on his shoulders. The school (known until 1980 as the Columbus Boychoir School) has argued that, under New Jersey's Charitable Immunity Act, a statute designed to shield nonprofits from negligence lawsuits, it can't be held financially liable no matter how heinous Hardwicke's abuse. If the supreme court agrees, Hardwicke's case will be dismissed before even being heard by a jury. And scores of sex-abuse suits against New Jersey Catholic churches and schools will be rendered void as well. The church, not surprisingly, has weighed in on the side of the school.During his work on the case, Lessig has been asked more than once by the press if he had experiences at the school similar to Hardwicke's. And Lessig has replied, "My experiences aren't what's at issue here. What's at issue is what happened to John Hardwicke."
Otto Penzler (Editor)
Mark Bowden (Author)
Mark Bowden is a noted body language expert, master of non-verbal and verbal communication, and a leader in the techniques of influence. The creator of TruthPlane, a unique model of training for anyone who has to communicate to an audience, his techniques are used now by top executives and political leaders across the globe. Mark gained his university degree in performance in the UK, and studied the gesture control methods of Jacques Lecoq's Laboratory of Movement, Paris; he has worked with leading practitioners of movement psychology and built upon the influence techniques of Dr. Milton Erickson. He holds a reputation as one of the UK's expert performance trainers, lecturing on performance at Drama Academies and Universities throughout the UK and across the world including RADA, Oxford and Cambridge; he is a highly sought after trainer in business communication at Canadian Universities including McGill, and international top ten business school Schulich at York. His client list of leading business people and politicians currently includes presidents and CEO's of fortune 50 companies and a G8 Prime Minister.