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Senior federal judge urges colleagues to consider denying clerkships to law students who disrupt free speech events

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Image source: YouTube screenshot, composite

After more than 100 Yale Law School students ambushed and disrupted a free speech panel earlier this month — featuring police escorting the speakers to safety — a senior federal judge urged his colleagues to consider denying clerkships to law school students who participate in such activities.

What are the details?

Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman sent his message to federal judges nationwide, Reuters reported, citing two recipients of his email.

Lawyer and legal journalist David Lat on his Substack page said Silberman's email 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.

Former President Ronald Reagan appointed Silberman to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1985, according to Reuters, which characterized Silberman as a conservative. Silberman's bio indicates he took senior status on November 1, 2000. A 1961 Harvard Law School graduate, Silberman also served as U.S. deputy attorney general from 1974 to 1975.

Reuters said Silberman declined to comment.

What's the background?

The March 10 panel hosted by the Yale Federalist Society featured Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association and Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit promoting religious liberty, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

The outlet said the opposing groups took the same side in a 2021 Supreme Court case on legal remedies for First Amendment violations — and the Yale event was meant to show that a liberal atheist and a conservative Christian could find common ground on free speech issues, the Yale Federalist Society said, according to the Free Beacon.

But when law school professor Kate Stith began to introduce Waggoner, the nearly 120 protesters — who outnumbered other onlookers — stood up and held signs attacking the Alliance Defending Freedom, the outlet said.

ADF has successfully argued several Supreme Court cases on religious exemptions from civil rights laws that violate freedom of conscience — in particular Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2018, the outlet noted.

I will 'literally fight you, bitch'

Protesters also dug their claws into the Yale Federalist Society, with one protester telling a member of the group that she would "literally fight you, bitch," the Free Beacon reported, citing audio and video it obtained.

Stith then spoke up, reminding protesters of Yale's free speech policies that bar any protest that "interferes with speakers' ability to be heard and of community members to listen," the outlet said.

When protesters heckled and raised middle fingers at Stith, the Free Beacon said she told them all to "grow up."

As you might guess — based on the protesters' collective attitude — they reacted with shocked howls and shouts at panelists and declarations that their outbursts are "free speech."

Stith then told them if their disturbances persisted, she would "ask you to leave — or help you leave."

Yale Law Students Revolt Against Free Speech youtu.be

When the protesters exited — one yelled "f*** you, FedSoc" — they stayed in the outside hall and began to stomp, shout, clap, sing, and pound the walls, making it difficult to hear the panel, the outlet said.

Protesters' chants of "protect trans kids" and "shame, shame" were so loud that nearby classes, exams, and faculty meetings were disrupted, the Free Beacon said, citing students and a professor who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Free Beacon added that things seemed dangerous at times, with protesters blocking the only exit and two members of the Federalist Society saying they were grabbed and pushed while attempting to exit.

"It was disturbing to witness law students whipped into a mindless frenzy," Waggoner told the outlet. "I did not feel it was safe to get out of the room without security."

After the panel ended, police arrived to escort Waggoner and Miller from building, the Free Beacon said.

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