Maybe those who try to shout down speakers shouldn’t get judicial clerkships.
by The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, March 20, 2022
Students at Yale Law School recently disrupted speakers in an example of cancel culture that is common on so many university campuses these days. Now comes a senior federal judge advising his judicial colleagues against hiring the protesting students for clerkships.
The March 10 panel was intended as a debate over civil liberties. It was hosted by the Yale Federalist Society and featured Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association and Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative outfit that promotes religious liberty. The two broadly agree on protecting free speech, despite their differences on other issues.
A hundred or so students heckled and tried to shout down the panel and Federalist Society members in attendance. One protester told a member of the conservative legal group she would “literally fight you, bitch,” according to the Washington Free Beacon, which obtained an audio and videotape of the ruckus. The speakers were escorted from the event by police for their safety. It’s not too much to say that the students were a political mob.
No punishment seems forthcoming from Yale Law School, despite its ostensible policy barring protests that disrupt free speech. But the event prompted Senior Judge Laurence Silberman of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to write the following letter to all of his fellow Article III judges last week:
“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.”
That should get some attention at Yale and other law schools. The woke young men and women might not care about the First Amendment, but they care about their careers. Judicial clerkships are plum post-graduate positions that open a path to jobs at prominent law firms, in state and federal government, and later to powerful judgeships. Appellate-court clerkships in particular are highly prized and are often a stepping stone to clerk for a Supreme Court Justice.
Some readers may think these students should be forgiven the excesses of youth. But these are adults, not college sophomores. They are law students who will soon be responsible for protecting the rule of law. The right to free speech is a bedrock principle of the U.S. Constitution. If these students are so blinkered by ideology that they can’t tolerate a debate over civil liberties on campus, the future of the American legal system is in jeopardy.
Individual judges choose their clerks, and no doubt some will figure they can educate these progressive protesters. But Judge Silberman’s letter should, if nothing else, warn these students that there may be consequences for becoming campus censors.