Fed Judge Warns Against Hiring From Yale Law

Audio reveals loud attempts to drown out free speech panel, police involvement

Yale Law School students protest in March 2022
March 18, 2022

A federal judge has encouraged all of his colleagues to "carefully consider" whether the Yale Law School students who attempted to shout down a bipartisan panel on free speech "should be disqualified from potential clerkships."

D.C. Circuit judge Laurence Silberman sent an email on Thursday to all federal judges in the United States, urging them to take the fracas at the nation's top law school seriously.

"The latest events at Yale Law School," Silberman wrote, "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."

The email set off a flurry of replies from Silberman's colleagues, several of whom expressed interest in discussing the matter further.

"I don't know where I come out on this yet," District Judge Eric Komitee of the Eastern District of New York wrote, "but agree this is a topic of tremendous societal importance."

The emails come amid revelations that the protest was even more disruptive than initially reported. According to Original Jurisdiction's David Lat, students in a federal courts class across the hall reported that the "floor was shaking," and students on a different floor could hear the din while they were taking an exam.

The law school also had to move a faculty meeting online because attendees couldn't hear anything over the tumult. Faculty at the meeting kept looking to Heather Gerken, the Dean of Yale Law School, to confront the protesters, according to Lat, but she did nothing.

After news of the protest broke, the law school released a statement on Thursday alleging that police were only "on hand" to ensure that the protesters quieted down, not to protect the safety of panelists. "Fortunately," the statement claims, police "assistance was not needed and the event went forward until its conclusion."

But audio from the panel indicates it was drowned out at several points by the protesters, whose chants went on for more than 10 minutes. The din drowns out Kristen Waggoner, the general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, right as she begins speaking, and chants of "protect trans kids" make it extremely difficult to hear the panel for several minutes.

The audio also suggests that Yale police officers escorted the panelists to a patrol car outside out of concern for their safety—contradicting Yale's claim that the police only came to ensure the protesters quieted down.

"We think the protesters are going to try to follow us to lunch," Zack Austin, the president of the Yale Federalist Society, tells the panel's organizers after conferring with the officers, who say they have a "vehicle on site." So the panelists "are going to take the squad car and meet us at the restaurant," Austin explained.

Kristen Waggoner, the speaker who was the main target of the protest, confirmed that she and her co-panelist did indeed ride in the squad car after being escorted out of the building by Yale police. Members of the Federalist Society walked—though Austin instructed them to "take a very circuitous route."

As the students make their exit, protesters can be heard booing and shouting: "shame, shame."

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