Law School Deans, Law Schools, Plaintiffs Firms

Law Dean Denies That He Is Priest’s ‘Butt Boy’

SLU Law Dean Tom Keefe. He definitely doesn’t look like a butt boy to me.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered Saint Louis University School of Law more than I could have ever possibly imagined.

It all started when their dean, Annette Clark, resigned her deanship (or resigned before she was fired, depending on whom you believe). After issuing a public and scathing farewell letter, Professor Clark fled back to Seattle, where she rejoined the faculty of the Seattle University School of Law.

To fill the void, the president of SLU, Father Lawrence Biondi, appointed outspoken personal injury lawyer Tom Keefe as interim dean of the law school.

If you thought having a personal injury lawyer as dean of a law school would result in fun for readers of Above the Law, you were right. This guy is going to be a riot — before he (almost inevitably) flames out…

Late last week, Dean Keefe gave a wide-ranging interview to Missouri Lawyers Weekly. In it, Keefe tries to establish his independence from Father Biondi by using language that would certainly never be tolerated from an altar boy:

At a Jesuit university with a history of clamping down on employees who make statements in opposition to Catholic teachings, Keefe is an outspoken Democrat, prone to quotable zingers and uncensored insights. So when he made it clear that he was thrilled about U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s troubles for statements about abortion, Keefe wasn’t worried who knew.

“Does that sound like somebody who is Father Biondi’s butt boy?” he asked.

During a nearly two-hour interview with Missouri Lawyers Weekly, the terms “butt boy,” “trained monkey” and “yes man” cropped up many times as examples of what Keefe said he has been called and what he adamantly says he is not.

If we look at the resignation letter from Dean Clark, I think the worry is that Father Biondi uses the whole law school as his “butt boy.” Figuratively. Nobody, except perhaps Dean Keefe, is worried about Biondi literally giving Keefe bad touches.

Keefe will be donating his salary back to the university. That sounds like a “butt boy” move to me, but Keefe points out that he has more than enough money:

“[Biondi] can’t afford me. … I get to make way too much money lawyering to be his trained monkey. He doesn’t have enough money to do that, and he doesn’t want to.”

“I’m an important alumni. I’m a source of future funding. Why in the heck would I step and fetch for a guy who wants my money?”

I bet there are a lot of SLU law students who would happily step and fetch like monkeys, trained or otherwise, if it meant they had jobs when they graduated law school.

Keefe’s jobs plan is really the only thing we haven’t heard from the man. We know that Keefe has been very successful in his career. We just hope he has some kind of way of helping his students achieve the same kind of career fulfillment.

If he can do that, then nobody will care about his relationship with Father Biondi.

Excerpts: New SLU law dean: I am not Biondi’s ‘butt boy’ [Missouri Lawyers Weekly]

Earlier: Law School Dean Blasts University In Passionate Resignation Letter
University President Claims He Intended to Terminate Ex-Dean’s Appointment, Hires Personal Injury Attorney as Interim Dean

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