When one of the most distinguished federal judges in the nation sends out an email to all his fellow judges suggesting that they might not want to hire a certain group of law students for prestigious clerkship provisions, the entire legal profession takes notice.
Because of the circumstances surrounding such an unprecedented email, all Americans should take notice of what happened at Yale Law School on March 10, where a group of nearly 120 law students disrupted a Federalist Society event at which Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Kristen Waggoner spoke.
The students, purportedly speaking on behalf of LGBT-identified students, didn’t attend the event to see what Waggoner, and the other speaker, Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association had to say about a 2021 Supreme Court decision in favor of free speech rights of students – Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski.
They were there to do what the Left seems to think free speech consists of these days – prevent the event from happening because they don’t like one of the speakers, which, in this case, was Waggoner. Or more precisely, they don’t like ADF because it has been designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). ADF, along with a number of mainstream Christian organizations, have made it onto SPLC’s list because of their public positions and advocacy that adheres to biblical sexual standards.
The SPLC has its own problems, in addition to its anti-Christian hostility, but apparently the concerned students at Yale Law overlook such things when there is outrage to be expressed at Christian values.
Approximately 120 Yale law students, according to The Washington Free Beacon, stood up as the speakers were introduced and “began to antagonize members of the Federalist Society.” And one law student – and remember that law students are typically at least 22 years old – told a member of the conservative group, “I will literally fight you, b**ch.”
Only after law professor Kate Stith, who was present to introduce the speakers and moderate the event, told the disruptive students to “grow up,” and moments later to either leave or be helped to leave, was any semblance of order restored. Campus security was present. The students went out in the hallway, where they “began to stomp, shout, clap, sing, and pound the walls.” They also chanted “protect trans kids” and “shame, shame,” disrupting other classes and faculty meetings throughout the school.
To make matters worse, on March 12 over 60% of the law school’s students signed a letter supporting the disrupters and complaining that Prof. Stith’s “dismissal of our peaceful actions as childish” and the presence of “armed officers” put Yale Law’s “queer student body at risk of harm.”
Have these students lost their senses?
If they really believe such things, then whoever or whatever taught them to think like this has done them a great disservice.
These law students, at the number one ranked law school in the country, will typically go on to become the nation’s premier judges, lawyers and public servants. And this is how they treat people and organizations they oppose?
Law school is supposed to be the place where budding lawyers learn to dispassionately absorb opposing viewpoints and then passionately make the case for their own views. Try doing what those young lawyers-to-be did in an actual court of law before a real judge, and they wouldn’t last two minutes before they were held in contempt of court, fined, or thrown into a jail cell until they reconsidered their conduct.
Which is what Senior Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit must have been thinking when he penned the following email to his fellow federal judges about the incident:
The latest events at Yale Law School, in which students attempted to shout down speakers participating in a panel discussion on free speech, prompt me to suggest that students who are identified as those willing to disrupt any such panel discussion should be noted. All federal judges—and all federal judges are presumably committed to free speech—should carefully consider whether any student so identified should be disqualified from potential clerkships.
And critically important to the legal profession and society at large. Silberman is the adult in the room, having served in public life since the Nixon administration. And here he is telling these immature law students that if they won’t act like lawyers, they won’t be treated as such in the job market.
Clerkships are considered a steppingstone for young law school graduates who have aspirations of becoming judges themselves, and a clerkship with a high-profile judge like Silberman could lead to a clerkship with a Supreme Court justice, which would be a golden ticket to any future job.
David Lat is a gay-identified lawyer who has written on happenings in the legal world for years. You’d expect that he would be supportive of the disruptive students because of his support for LGBT issues, right?
Wrong. In his article, “Is Free Speech in American Law Schools a Lost Cause?” Lat explores the events at Yale (and an earlier situation at University California at Hastings), and makes this point:
I’m glad that YLS faculty and administrators, especially Professor Stith, were able to protect this event from getting completely canceled. But I do wish that Dean Heather Gerken had sent out a message right after the event along the lines of Dean Faigman’s missive at Hastings, making clear that the protesters’ behavior—attempting to disrupt the event from inside the classroom, then repairing to the hallway and continuing to make excessive noise to drown out the event—was unacceptable.”
As a gay man who is in a same-sex marriage and raising a son with my husband, I strongly disagree with ADF’s views on same-sex marriage and parenting. But I strongly defend the right of its leaders to speak and to participate in public events, and I think the treatment that Kristen Waggoner received at YLS was disrespectful and wrong.
As Waggoner herself told the Beacon, “Yale Law students are our future attorneys, judges, legislators, and corporate executives,” she said. “We must change course and restore a culture of free speech and civil discourse at Yale and other law schools, or the future of the legal profession in America is in dire straits.”
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