At Stanford, Public Accountability for Thee But Not for Me

Stanford protesters / Getty Images

The debate inside Stanford Law School, where activist students earlier this month shouted down federal circuit court judge Kyle Duncan at a Federalist Society event, has moved beyond whether those students should face any consequences for their outrageous conduct. The school has made clear they will not.

Now we debate the propriety of the conservative students on the receiving end of that vitriol expressing their displeasure with the school, and their classmates, in the press.

Stanford administrators are hoping this public relations nightmare will blow over if everybody, particularly the Federalist Society students targeted by the activists, would be so kind as to shut up and take this one on the chin.

The administration aims to run the operation like any abusive parent would: Don't say a word to anybody about how you got that bruise, or else!

Perhaps most outrageous is an email sent Tuesday from Federalist Society faculty adviser Michael McConnell—the lone conservative on the Stanford Law School faculty—to the student group's members urging them, in their interactions with the press, "not to speak out of anger and not to exacerbate the already tense situation."

"Many in the media would like nothing better than to find sources and quotes that are inflammatory on one side or the other. This is not in your interest, and it is not in the long-term interest of the chapter at Stanford—nor of Stanford as an institution," McConnell wrote. "In particular, I have heard that some outlets wish to obtain names and likenesses of protesting students. I suggest not cooperating with any such efforts." With friends like these!

Why members of the school's Federalist Society chapter should help cover up the misconduct of their peers and the administrators who collaborated with them is a mystery to us. But such a cover-up is surely not in the best interests of the institution or the legal system it ostensibly serves.

McConnell told us he stands by his guidance about press engagement, but did not respond to questions about what sorts of consequences might be appropriate for the mob that shut down the event.

The school's chapter of the National Lawyers Guild—the organizing force behind the Maoist horde of would-be lawyers—papered the hallways prior to Judge Duncan's arrival with the names and photographs of the Federalist Society's board members.

Yet when Free Beacon reporter Aaron Sibarium quoted the group's board members describing the protests as "Stanford Law School at its best," and named those board members, we got a note from one of them, Lily Bou, demanding that we remove her name and those of her classmates. "You do not have our permission to reference or quote any portion of this email in a future piece."

That's not exactly how the First Amendment works.

We've gotten similar complaints about publishing images—pulled from social media—of Stanford Law School dean Jenny Martinez's classroom, which protesters covered end to end in flyers after she issued an apology to Judge Duncan.

We received the following note from Mary Cate Hickman, who identified herself as a second-year law student and describes herself on LinkedIn as "passionate about social justice" and a graduate of the Sorbonne.

Hickman demanded that we "anonymize the face of the student in the red hoodie" because "California is a two-party consent state, and you have no right to publish this student's identity/likeness/face without consent."

California is a two-party consent state for the recording of oral communications, not photographs, and even that only pertains to situations in which there is a presumption of privacy—that is, not a law school classroom in which student activists are snapping photographs and posting them to Instagram. Hickman did not respond to a request for comment.

What's eminently clear from the drama unfolding in Palo Alto is that while Stanford law students may be the vanguard of an anti-constitutional revolution, they don't know much about the law. Where Stanford has failed to educate them in the limits of privacy and the rights of a free press, we will endeavor to fill the void with our continuing coverage of this ugly affair.