Senior Federal Judge Lays Down Law, Says Clerkships Should Be Denied to Law Students Who Disrupt Free-Speech Events

Senior Federal Judge Lays Down Law, Says Clerkships Should Be Denied to Law Students Who Disrupt Free-Speech Events

A senior federal judge is less than impressed with a group of about 100 Yale Law School students who crashed a free speech event earlier this month, forcing police to evacuate the speakers to safety.

In particular, senior U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman said in a memo to all of his colleagues around the country they ought to deny clerkships to any law school student who completely undermines the First Amendment’s guaranteed protection of the right of Americans to speak freely.

According to the Washington Free Beacon:

More than 100 students at Yale Law School attempted to shout down a bipartisan panel on civil liberties, intimidating attendees and causing so much chaos that police were eventually called to escort panelists out of the building.

The March 10 panel, which was hosted by the Yale Federalist Society, featured Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association and Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit that promotes religious liberty. Both groups had taken the same side in a 2021 Supreme Court case involving legal remedies for First Amendment violations. The purpose of the panel, a member of the Federalist Society said, was to illustrate that a liberal atheist and a conservative Christian could find common ground on free speech issues.

“It was pretty much the most innocuous thing you could talk about,” he added.

Nevertheless, that didn’t stop roughly 120 student protesters from crowding into the event and causing a ruckus.

“When a professor at the law school, Kate Stith, began to introduce Waggoner, the protesters, who outnumbered the audience members, rose in unison, holding signs that attacked ADF. The nonprofit has argued—and won—several Supreme Court cases establishing religious exemptions from civil rights laws, most famously Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2018,” the outlet reported.

“As they stood up, the protesters began to antagonize members of the Federalist Society, forcing Stith to pause her remarks. One protester told a member of the conservative group she would ‘literally fight you, bitch,’ according to audio and video obtained” by the outlet.

As the protest intensified, Stith reminded the law school students of Yale’s free speech policies — which bar any protest that “interferes with speakers’ ability to be heard and of community members to listen.” In response, some students heckled her, several with raised middle fingers, leading her to tell them to “grow up.”

Eventually, the law students left the meeting auditorium, only to gather outside in the hallway to loudly chant, sing, stomp their feet and bang on the walls — so much so that it disturbed other classes. The Free Beacon story did not mention whether any of the disruptive students were punished.

The entire incident did not sit well with Silberman. According to lawyer and legal journalist David Lat on his Substack page, Silberman’s email memo stated the following:

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.

Let’s hope that happens. If not, as the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Waggoner notes, American jurisprudence is in big trouble.

“Yale Law students are our future attorneys, judges, legislators, and corporate executives,” she told the Free Beacon. “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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