Thinking Citizen Blog —“Mob Rule at Hastings Law School,” “Free Speech Gets Tossed at Yale Law School”
Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic: “Mob Rule at Hastings Law School,” “Free Speech Gets Tossed at Yale Law School”
Hastings Law School, located in San Francisco, is the oldest law school in California and its most notable alumnus is Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States. A third bit of background is that the Board of Directors of the School recently voted to change its name because of its founder’s “involvement in the killing and dispossessing of the Yuki people in the 1850s.” The first part of today’s post is on the “cancellation” of a speech by Ilya Schapiro at Hastings. The second part is on a Yale Law School protest that attempted to shout down a conservative speaker (Kirsten Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom). The third is on DC Circuit Senior Judge Laurence Silberman’s email “to all federal judges nationwide asking them to think twice before hiring any of the more than 100 Yale University law students” involved in the protest. Were the protests out of line? Was Silberman’s response? What do the three incidents say about the value placed on free speech by the legal profession in general and top law schools in particular? Is something out of whack? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
ILYA SCHAPIRO (below) “CANCELLED” AT HASTINGS LAW SCHOOL — his side of the story
1. “I’ve given more than 1,000 speeches in my career, and I’ve never been protested — until March 1, when dozens of students shut down my event at San Francisco’s Hastings College of Law. In January the school’s Federalist Society chapter invited me to talk about my recent book on the politics of judicial nominations, a subject that became timelier with Justice Breyer’s retirement.”
2. “On Jan. 26, I tweeted in opposition to President Biden’s decision to limit his nominee pool by race and sex. I argued that Judge Sri Srinivasan was the best candidate, meaning that everyone else was less qualified, so if Mr. Biden kept his promise, he would pick what given Twitter’s character limit, I characterized as a “lesser black woman.” I deleted the tweet and apologized for my inartful choice of words, but I stand by my view that Mr. Biden should have considered “all possible nominees,” as 76% of Americans agreed in an ABC News poll.”
3. ‘It’s clear that a vocal minority of Hastings students wanted to hear neither my reasoning about Mr. Biden’s selection criteria nor my broader analysis now that there is a nominee. They screamed obscenities and physically confronted me, several times getting in my face or blocking my access to the lectern, and they shouted down a dean.”
NB: “They also castigated their school for allowing me to speak and circulated a letter demanding ‘a committee of diverse student representatives” to approve speakers as well as mandatory training in critical race theory for students and faculty. Never mind that Hastings, a public institution would be violating the First Amendment if it disapproved speakers based on their viewpoints.”
KRISTEN WAGGONER AT YALE LAW SCHOOL — is something wrong here?
1. “As soon as Yale law professor Kate Stith began to introduce Waggoner, a group of students rose and began to shout her down, heckle her, with several reportedly holding up their middle fingers. When they refused to stop yelling, Stith told them to “grow up” and reminded them of Yale’s free speech policy. One protestor shouted back that Sith was violating their right to free speech. Another reportedly threatened a student organizer of the event with violence, telling her she would “literally fight you, b….” The protestors eventually left the room, but, according to the Washington Free Beacon, stood outside the hall yelling and pounding on the walls. Campus police had to escort Waggoner out of the building. “It was disturbing to witness law students whipped into a mindless frenzy,” she said after the even, adding, “I did not feel it was safe to get out of the room without security.”
2. “These are not college kids. They are adults on the fast track to highflying legal careers, studying at an institution which produces more clerks for federal judges and Supreme Court justices than almost any other law school in the United States.” (first link below)
3. “Moreover, the Alliance Defending Freedom is not a fringe group. Since 2014, the ADF has won 12 cases before the US Supreme Court. While the protestors disagree with its positions on religious liberty, the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed them. They might want to listen and learn why.”
NB: “If you want to clerk for a federal judge, listening respectfully as two sides discuss an issue is your job. If you can’t do that, you have no business serving in a judge’s chambers…Worse still, the fact that protesters actually believed their right to free speech was being suppressed is Orwellian. Shutting down free speech is not free speech. When you shout someone down, you’re not participating in argument — you are trying to prevent the argument from taking place. This is antithetical to the purpose of law school, which is to teach students how to argue the law using reason and persuasion…Incredibly, 417 Yale law students — nearly two-thirds of the student body — signed an open letter criticizing the presence of “armed police” at the protest and defending the disruption. The invitation of the ADF “undermined our community’s values of equity and inclusivity,” they claimed, while complaining about the “faculty moderator’s dismissal of our peaceful action as childish.”
JUDGE SILBERMAN’S EMAIL: Did he go too far? Is he for creating a “blacklist”?
1. Silberman’s Tweet: “The latest events at Yale Law School in which students attempted to shout down speakers participating in a panel discussion on free speech prompts 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 for potential clerkships.”
2. Eric Segall, Professor of Law, Georgia State University: “There is no question that free speech is in serious danger on many of our nation’s campuses. But Judge Silberman’s email is an overreaction. Students should be allowed a mistake or two like this without them leaving a permanent stain on their careers.”
3. The last link below is to an article in “Slate” which argues that Silberman’s tweet is based on a distorted account of what actually happened and that the student protestors in fact respected Yale Law School’s “three strikes rule, which governs the line between expressing your own views and silencing others.” The article includes video clips. Check them out. You decide.
NB: The Slate article conclusion: “There is only one plausible threat to free speech here: the possibility that federal judges will blacklist law students from clerkships because they expressed their beliefs too loudly.” Agree? Disagree?
FOOTNOTE — who is Judge Silberman anyway?
1. On the DC Circuit Court of Appeals since being appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1985. He has been the senior judge since 2000. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.
2. “In total, Silberman has held six Senate-confirmed positions and never received a dissenting vote.”
3. He has been called “the most influential judge never to have sat on the Supreme Court.” (Wall Street Journal) Really? How about Richard Posner? Another famous judge who never sat on the Supreme Court: Henry Friendly (1903–1986). Who would your pick be from the pool of living and historic judges?
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Two special attachments below:
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
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This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.