Pat Borchers’ wonderful holiday gift to the rest of us

Pat Borchers, former Dean  of the Creighton Law School, is a really good guy. True to the Jesuit tradition at Creighton, Pat is socially committed. But, he is also a self-styled conservative. He is brilliant, genuine, practical, funny and a terrific writer.

Pat has recently started a blog entitled “The Way I See It.” He explains his background and the purpose of the blog this way:

My full name is Patrick Joseph Borchers. As far as I can tell, there are only three people in the world with the name “Patrick Borchers” and I’m the only one with the middle name of “Joseph.” The paucity of Patrick Borcherses is perhaps unremarkable, as my name appears to have been a compromise. “Patrick” is quintessentially Irish, and my mother’s maiden name was Mary Bridget Hennessy.

My last name is German. A few years ago I received an email out of the blue from a Hans Borchers who had been born in the Goslar District of Germany, asking (essentially) if I were my father’s son, to which I replied in the affirmative. He was working on filling out a family tree. We Borchers are fairly easy to track as it’s an uncommon last name.

I was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1961 to two brilliant parents. My father holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Wisconsin, where he taught on the Physics faculty and served in high ranking administrative positions (the last being Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs) until we left in 1977.

My mother majored in Mathematics, which was extremely unusual for a woman of her generation. She had significant course work later in her life toward an MPA, though I cannot recall whether she got a degree. My interest in politics was sparked by her. When I was young (12 or so) she ran for the city council in Madison. We worked like dogs on her campaign. She lost by three votes. But she eventually became chair of Madison’s Parks Commission and then Planning Commission, which made her — as a practical matter — one of the most politically powerful people in Madison. Although we have a lot of longevity in our family, she died in 2008 as a result of a rare cancer.

I got married at what now seems like the absurdly young age of 23. It worked out. Twenty-eight years and five children later, we’re still married.

Sharing my parents’ quantitative bent, I majored in Physics and graduated from Notre Dame in 1983. But I never completely scratched that political itch and I went to law school, which was a lucky break. I attended the University of California, Davis, School of Law and graduated in 1986. I met my wife in law school and I was a law clerk for Anthony M, Kennedy the last year he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals before President Reagan put him on the U.S. Supreme Court.

I practiced law in California, then got into academics, becoming Dean of the Creighton Law School, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Creighton University, and now as a Professor of Law (with an adjunct appointment in the Department of Philosophy) and directing the Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Creighton. Creighton is located in Omaha, Nebraska. Although a lot of people don’t know this, I suspect that with Creighton now in the Big East conference for sports that more people will figure this out. Anyway, that’s probably enough about me. There are a few more details about me located on Wikipedia. The link is here. Feel free to edit it, though please respect Wikipedia’s rules about “vandalism” and remember that there are laws about defamation of character.

I probably meet the technical definition of being a “public figure.” My jobs have made me fairly visible. I hold a minor public office in Douglas County, Nebraska. I flirted with running for the open U.S. Senate seat from Nebraska, before deciding to support my friend Shane Osborn. I plan on running for the Nebraska state legislature in 2016.

But having spent several paragraphs talking about me, I now tell you that this blog isn’t about me.

The last few years have reawakened my interest in politics. This may seem odd, because it has been one of the most dreadful eras for United States politics.

However, this blog will be devoted in some substantial part to politics, which brings me to its title: “The Way I See It.” Some of you will recognize this from folk musician Joni Mitchell’s hit “Free Man in Paris.” I picked it in part because I really like Joni Mitchell’s songs. But part of it is to say that this is just the way I see it.

If I had to put my finger on what I think ails our country and public debate in general, it’s that we’ve lost a respect for civil discourse. People don’t do much talking about issues anymore. There’s a lot of shouting past each other. People are more interested in scoring “gotcha” points than trying to solve problems.

As you will learn, I’m conservative. But please don’t mistake that for being closed-minded. I am genuinely interested in other points of view. Although a good deal of Hegelian philosophy doesn’t appeal to me, the notion of “thesis” and “antithesis” leading to “synthesis” contains an important insight. We are smarter collectively than we are individually.

If the first several posts from Pat are any indication, Pat’s blog will be eclectic, thoughtful and fun to read. Just this week, there is a post about a football coach, who is lawyer and a lover of pirates. There is another about two giants in the fields of economics, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek.

Pat’s decision to blog is a wonderful holiday gift. I hope a lot of people read what Pat writes. If nothing else, you will be stimulated by the fine prose of good person and a serious, but not pedantic, thinker.


10 responses

  1. Can we leave the “civil debate” evil at the cave entrance. Calling someone a jerk can be an honest appraisal of their worth or the strength of their argument. That the name calling stops the game and prevents the accused from continuing, because, perhaps, not all of their thoughts have the same weak antecedents causes the problem. Listening to dumbness or professed social indifference without comment or interruption can be hypocritical. And, for someone to start their campaign with a recitation of how educated they and their parents are and the fact they are conservative, whatever that means (doesn’t smoke marijuana or support women’s right to choose so no one should be able to get high or have an abortion) doesn’t exactly tell me that they will be the able legislator we so badly need. I want to know what the person in office does for those who fall into the minority, the four out of ten who didn’t vote for them.

  2. I submit that Dean Borchers would do us a greater service if he would confine his discussions to subjects he actually knows something about. One is left to wonder how an undergraduate degree in physics or a law degree — most lawyers are ex poli-sci majors, hopelessly lost when it comes to financial matters — qualifies Dean Borchers to comment intelligently on macroeconomics.

    I would second Judge Duckman’s observation regarding the The Donald-class pomposity in Borchers’s introduction, especially when contrasted to Judge Kopf’s refreshing humility. Nothing alienates readers more quickly than boasts as to how smart you are. One is left to wonder where he had a proctologist install that attitude; it is normally a disease confined to Harvard grads. 🙂

    With Judge Duckman, I don’t actually know what a “conservative” is, apart from being a hypocrite. The “conservatives” I know want a government so small that it will fit in the uterus down the street, and believe that we should spend 10% of our GDP on maintaining an empire for the sole benefit of transnational corporations based in Bermuda. The only difference between a conservative and a liberal is in what it is they want to tell you to do.

  3. I’m drawing on the experience of Judge Sarokin, who blogs at the HuffPo. Instead of confining his remarks to the law, he strays far from his area of expertise, and opinions are like, you know … everyone has one. While Judge K has threatened to “Duck Dynasty” me, he has stayed his hand so far, and he has kept it real by restricting the scope of his topics.

    Economics is probably a place you shouldn’t go. I have taken economist Thomas Sowell to task for a particularly idiotic opinion regarding the law, gently suggesting that he leave legal commentary to the legally trained. Your resume (expertise in admin law and conflict of laws) appears a little light there.

    Speaking of which, I had a little chat with a Creighton 2-L, who understood why discretionary cert, official immunities, and non-precedential opinions have the cumulative effect of rendering the Bill of Rights nugatory. While I know that neither you nor Judge K can come out and admit it publicly–judges are merely politicians in robes–it speaks well of your school that your students get it.

  4. If I might suggest a topic for your new blog, I’d be curious as to your take on the viability of prohibitions against polygamy in light of the recent SSM rulings and Brown v. Buhman ( Since Lawrence v. Texas, I have said (along with Scalia) that the battle was all but over on SSM, but courts in Utah and the Eastern District of Michigan (large Muslim population) will have to confront this question. My initial thought is that it is a close call.

  5. Ken, well, I stick by my economics post. As I said, I’m not a trained economist and if people point out where they think I’m wrong, then maybe I’ll be better off for it should I accidentally get elected to something.

    I don’t think that judges are just politicians in robes, or at least I don’t think that all judges are politicians in robes, but let’s leave it that — I know your position. I’m glad you had a good discussion with one of our students. They are a delight to teach.

    You may not have seen it, but I posted on this blog that I think that “non-precedential” opinions should go away. Best, Pat.

  6. Ken, I have actually written extensively on SSM (the conflicts side of it) and drawn analogies to polygamy and other non-traditional marriages. If you go to SSRN I have a couple of articles posted there. My point simply has been that one can in perfectly good faith support same-sex marriage and oppose polygamy on policy grounds, but that if the matter is decided by the judiciary it will be very hard to draw lines. That’s why I think that everyone would be better off if the issue got decided in the legislative arena. I’ll take a look at the case. Best, Pat.

  7. My primary bone of contention is that, owing to the Court’s willful refusal to attend to their constitutional duty of error-correction, 2 The Works of James Wilson 149-50 (James D. Andrews ed., 1896), there is no such thing as a precedential opinion. Not even Marbury v. Madison.

    How do you teach law where there is no law to teach?

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