Memo From Michael: Good Wolf Versus Evil Wolf

by Michael Josephson on June 26, 2014

in Memo From Michael

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I haven’t written a personal note for quite a while.

Earlier this week I revealed that I have been preoccupied for more than six months with a lawsuit my family and I reluctantly filed against the Archer School for Girls, its head of school Elizabeth English and its Board of Trustees (see to read about the case).

The quotation I’ve posted here pinpoints the dilemma between our best and worst instincts. In this case, on the one hand there’s the desire to protect my children and others who have been, or might be, subjected to the kind of misconduct we outline in the claim. (We hope to change the law under which private schools operate.) On the other hand, there’s a more basic and base desire to inflict punishment on someone who has hurt my family. While I believe the better motives dominate, I can never be sure how much my decision was also feeding the evil wolf.

As a former law professor who taught litigation, I know better than many that lawsuits are a very clumsy tool for resolving disputes. I came to believe it is foolish to take this route before exhausting all other options. Still, I appreciate and am extremely grateful for our legal system, which allows us to seek redress, and hold accountable, people and institutions that perpetrate harm on us (in this case, my children), especially when it is malicious. Only time will tell whether this decision was wise or not. I know it will be costly – not only financially, but to my reputation. (There will be some who believe this is inconsistent with my role as an ethicist.)

In the meantime, I comfort myself (hopefully, not deluding myself) with the reminder that character is doing the right thing even when it costs more than you want to pay.

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