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Markel letter writer said he must be shut down ‘by all means necessary’July 25, 2014
By: Michael Abrams
The words were bitter and threatening.
Enough so that Florida State University professor Dan Markel felt that his family and his own life may have been in danger.
Whatever the words portended, Dan Markel was murdered brutally two years later, July 18, in his Betton Hills home in Tallahassee by someone police say may have known him. Police say he was shot in the head.
Police are still searching for anyone who might know something about this murder which left two young boys without a father, and the university without one of its most productive law scholars.
Markel was highly regarded by almost everyone who knew him in the world of academic law. Tributes to him say he was helpful to younger scholars in a way that forged a new sense of academic community among them.
At 41, he was a national resource in the “invisible” university of his colleagues everywhere, one of the highest goals of any teacher in the academic world.
His writings were erudite, and he could be both creative and philosophically challenging for even the most knowledgeable of his colleagues. He never hesitated to help younger scholars by reading and criticizing their manuscripts, which he did assiduously and for which he somehow found spare time.
Yet there were those who found some of the edges rough. Even those who knew him and praised him said that he never refrained from expressing himself critically. A few of his law students found him abrasive and hard to talk to, a characteristic that can often flaw brilliance.
In the national and very informal “rate my professor” rankings, probably unfair to many professors who take a hard line with students, and quite unscientific, he had only 3 out of a possible 5 points.
One or two students called him “arrogant” and difficult to find for help. He was not one of the “hot” professors. Some might say the rating was little above mediocre.
Still, others found him challenging.
A razor cuts both ways. Success has many sides. Reputation can be a trip-wire for those who think they have the answers. Markel could find solutions. He was an well-versed in political philosophy as well as law. Such fluidity may have caused anger and jealousy among people who may not ever have met Dan Markel.
At the beginning of 2012, Markel and his wife Wendi Adelson seemed a happy couple. Married six years earlier, in 2006, the New York Times story related their story. The planets seemed aligned for success.
He already was working at FSU by 2006, and she was in her last year of law school at the University of Miami. Both were honors graduates of elite Boston schools, he at Harvard twice, she at Brandeis. Both had attended Cambridge University.
She eventually was also hired by FSU and ran their public outreach program. Both were productive and well-traveled scholars, and had written books, his a legal tome and hers a more down-to-earth story about human trafficking -women forced into commercial slavery as prostitutes, published in 2013.
Amazon says Wendi Adelson (who kept her original name in marriage) is a Clinical Professor and Director of Medical Legal Partnership at Florida State University College of Law.
Those who knew them in the Tallahassee Jewish community found them to be active in religion. Dan Markel’s proclivity for spoken Hebrew at one of the local synagogues led the congregation to add a closing prayer to the services which he customarily led at the end of Sabbath on Saturdays. His wife, Wendi, was active in guiding young people in a Jewish Federation program.
They were comfortably adapted to this community, an attractive and brilliant couple with two young children. The state lists his salary at the law school at $193,000. Hers is not listed, possibly funded by outside sources.
By the end of the year, they were divorced, and engaged in a bitter custody battle over the two young boys, three and five. She wanted to take them home to South Florida, where her father and brother Charles are successful dentists. She came from a family of high achievers. Her other brother Robert is an otolaryngologist.
Markel, from Toronto, came from an apparently well-to-do family engaged in the business consulting and apparel warehousing. His mother wrote a book on how women can get ahead in business.
Perhaps as a measure of bitterness in the dispute, Adelson asked her mother to testify in the custody battle, along with two other attorneys either teaching or associated with the law school.
At the beginning of that year of tumult, something else may have been on Markel’s mind. He was engaged in a series of messages with people posting on a blog known as “insidethelawschoolscam.”
These were people, possibly former law students, who believed that law schools across the nation were duplicitous with prospective students, falsely assuring them that that they could find careers in the field after graduation. And they had reason to be upset.
Time Magazine, for instance, reported than in 2009, only about 65 percent of law school graduates could find jobs for which they passed the bar exam. Fundamental changes were taking place in law schools, and eventually applications began to become fewer. For many graduates, the picture was grim.
They were burdened by debts which sometimes exceeded $100,000, and many of them found themselves desperately seeking other work. Their hero, in some respects, was Paul Campos, a professor at the University of Colorado. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_23733599/carroll-many-law-school-degrees-worse-than-worthless.
Campos is mentioned in some of the postings concerning the problems that law students face.
Wrote one anonymous corresponded who had become upset at Markel:
“Do you have the empathy to compare the terror that goes through a 26 year old’s life, when a student loan bill comes due and can’t pay it? When he can’t even get a job at Walmart because the education you sold him under false pretenses is so worthless that it won’t even advance his candidacy at retail?
Now compare that terror, that terror of having your life and financial future pass before your eyes, to the minor annoyance you felt at having your “name” sullied. Get over yourself.”
Markel, in contrast to those who found the going rough, represented a meteoric success in the field. Holding a chair at a young age, he was one of the most prolific young law scholars in the country. With his imprimatur from Harvard and Cambridge, he was still of an age where many law school graduates were looking for ways to leave the profession, or had never been able to find work.
Markel had, since 2005, run a blog that discussed many areas of law, including openings for teachers in law schools and some help for students seeking jobs.
In doing so, he set himself up as a colleague for everyone and an enemy for some.
In 2012, in January, he received correspondence for his “Prawsblawg” expressing some anger over the fact that law schools were still telling students that jobs were available.
He apparently declined to run someone’s letter and this caused a correspondence back and forth.
At least one of the messages caused him some worry. This became part of a blog known as “insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com” which no longer continues on the Web - but old postings are available.
Whoever posted the message, and this was signed “AtheistATLlawyer” wrote that people like Markel, who apparently represented what was wrong in law schools, should be dealt with.
Here is the letter:
“You’re worried about your home and private life being a target?” his correspondent wrote.
“What about your graduate’s homes and private lives? (Or lack thereof?)
You know, in addition to being law school graduates, the class of 2010 are, collectively, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters.
AND? YOU’VE RUINED THEIR LIVES YOU FOOL.
So yes, “all means necessary” are important to shutting people like YOU down.”
The writer ended by calling Markel “Law school scammer.”
The letter was unsigned.
Another letter-writer wrote this about Markel:
“His profile at Prawfsblog refers you to his old Harvard email rather than his current one at Florida State. I wonder what his students think about that. “
“Evidence that Markel is the douchebag’s douchebag:
1. Uses his @post.harvard.edu email instead of the email at his TTT.
2. Has a website with his name, danmarkel.com.
3. Is trying to get into a better school (NYU) for the “presteeeeje”
4. Gets all upset when people don’t respect his authority.
Dan, how did you become such a total douchebag? I mean, what happened in your life to make you this way? Holy shit, man.”
Whatever other correspondence was traded, Markel became concerned about inaccurate postings.
One anonymous poster wrote “Now, days later, you are claiming that a line in a blog comment makes you concerned for your safety. HAVE YOU NO SHAME? Anyone following this kerfuffle can plainly see that this is just your latest canard to get critical comments deleted. Seriously you are coming across even more negatively as this saga unfolds (if that is even possible). To put it charitably folks who have never even met you are inclined to see you as an obsessive, egomaniacal , control freak.”
Whatever happened to Dan Markel that fatal morning, it should be known that he had reason to fear for his well-being. Whoever shot him had a reason. Perhaps it was someone who viewed him as an elitist who took advantage of his position to disingenuously sell young people on careers in law.
Perhaps it was someone burdened by debt who saw Markel as a symbol for all of his troubles.
There are probably many other theories. The Tallahassee police say the shooting was not part of a robbery attempt. Someone was seeking Dan Markel.
Perhaps in this correspondence, there is a clue.