Back in June, it was first revealed that High Point University — a private school in North Carolina affiliated with the United Methodist Church that plans on opening up a law school in 2024 — had selected Mark D. Martin as its law school dean. While he has some nifty quals on his CV — Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, Associate Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, dean and professor of law at Regent University School of Law — there was one glaring issue. Martin lent his… legal expertise to Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the will of the voters in the 2020 election.
According to a report by the New York Times, Martin was the legal mind behind the theory that the Vice President could just decide not to certify the election results on January 6th. Trump told Mike Pence he “had spoken with Mark Martin, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, who he said had told him that Mr. Pence had that power (to reject the Electoral College votes on January 6th 2021).” And we all know how insidious that theory turned out to be.
Another report indicated Martin had an informal role in advising Trump supporters on the lawsuit filed by Texas’s attorney general seeking to throw out votes in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin (the lawsuit was ultimately thrown out for lack of standing).
But according to details in the final report from the bipartisan House of Representatives committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack, “Martin advised President Trump that Vice President Pence possessed the constitutional authority to impede the electoral count” in a phone call that lasted seven minutes. That advice has since been debunked by numerous lawyers and independent fact checkers.
Inside Higher Ed also points to some curious support for Martin:
“Mark Martin is the ideal person to be the founding dean of the new law school at High Point University. His experience as a lawyer, as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and as a law school dean all make him superbly qualified to lead this new law school. With him at the helm, they are already far on the way to creating an outstanding law school,” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkeley Law and president of the Association of American Law Schools, said in the press release.
Yup, the same Chemerinsky that rejected the legal “theory” now attributed to Martin, “The Electoral College had voted in accord with the procedures set out in the Constitution and federal laws. There was no basis for Vice President Pence to reject the results of the Electoral College.” Saying, “There is no basis in the Constitution for this. It would have been an unconstitutional, illegal coup.”
Chemerinsky also wrote that it’s important that those behind the coup be held responsible:
It’s crucial that what occurred after the 2020 election — including the events of Jan. 6 — not be recast as politics as usual. It was the first attempted coup in American history. It was the first attempted insurrection. The House hearings have thoroughly documented that Trump was its architect and must be held responsible.
He also put none too fine a point on the impact of the Big Lie on American democracy:
I never believed I would say this, but the very survival of American democracy is in danger. The Trump presidency, the events after the November 2020 election, and the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, all revealed the fragility of American democracy. And nothing that has occurred since has allayed that threat.
And yet, Chemerinsky thinks one of the lawyers advising Trump on his post-election strategy is “superbly qualified to lead” a law school? Curious.
Indeed, as noted by Inside Higher Ed, it seems no one in legal academia really wants to talk about how they’re putting someone who gave Trump terrible legal advice in charge of a law school:
Neither Martin, nor High Point officials, nor various supporters who endorsed Martin’s hire, are willing to talk about it. Neither Martin nor HPU officials would provide an interview to Inside Higher Ed, ignoring multiple requests and communicating only through emailed statements.
But the quality of Martin’s most infamous legal advice speaks for itself — and not in a good way.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.