12 judges concerned about free speech, won

Federal judges join boycott on hiring Yale Law clerks over plague of ‘cancel culture’

Several members of the federal appeals courts are boycotting the hiring of law clerks from Yale Law School.

On Friday, Elizabeth Branch, a member of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, said she would join James Ho, a fellow federal judge, in distancing herself from the Ivy League school plagued by “cancel culture.” 

James C. Ho, nominee to be a judge for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, testifies during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on November 15, 2017. 
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ho, who sits on the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit, said in a speech delivered at a Federalist Society conference in Kentucky on Sept. 29 that Yale “not only tolerates the cancelation of views — it actively practices it.” Ho urged other judges to likewise boycott the school.

“I don’t want to cancel Yale,” explained Ho. “I want Yale to stop canceling people like me.”

“Like Judge Ho, I am gravely concerned that the stifling of debate not only is antithetical to this country’s founding principles, but also stunts intellectual growth,” explained Branch in a statement to National Review. “Accordingly, I accept Judge Ho’s invitation to join him in declining to consider students from Yale Law School for clerkships with me, with an exception for past and current students.”

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According to the Washington Free Beacon, 12 other judges said in anonymous statements that they would join the boycott. 

Ho cited incidents in which students had disrupted conservative speakers at the New Haven, Connecticut-based Yale, where “cancelations and disruptions seem to occur with special frequency.”

More than 120 students at Yale Law School protested a bipartisan free speech event on March 10.

More than 120 students at Yale Law School protested a bipartisan free speech event on March 10.
(Google Maps)

Last March, a bipartisan panel hosted by Yale’s Federalist Society on civil liberties and free speech was disrupted by more than 100 students who tried to intimidate the speakers. The panel included Monica Miller, of the progressive American Humanist Association, and Kristen Waggoner, of the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). It was the latter who drew the audience’s ire.

Following the incident, Yale’s Dean of Law Heather Gerken defended free speech and emphasized the school’s desire to create an inclusive environment for students at the university.

“The vigorous exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of this Law School,” Gerken wrote in an email to students following the incident. “Protecting free speech is a core value of any academic institution; so too is cultivating an environment of respect and inclusion. These two values are mutually reinforcing and sit at the heart of an intellectual community like ours.”

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Waggoner told Fox News’ Steve Doocy in March that the “students were not only physically intimidating the other students and the speakers, they were pounding on the walls, blocking the exits and disrupting the event throughout.”

Ho said that event was just one example. 

U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was also “disrupted by loud angry law students in the classroom” at Yale a few years ago.

That incident, Ho said, was because as Alabama’s Republican attorney general, Pryor backed Texas’ defense of the anti-sodomy law struck down in 2003 in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court gay rights’ case Lawrence v. Texas.

Last week on “Fox & Friends,” Waggoner agreed with the judges’ decision to boycott hiring of law clerks from Yale.

“You can’t have a justice system that works without the free exchange of ideas,” Waggoner explained. “We know that good lawyers and good law clerks need to be able to understand and engage with ideas and people that they dislike. So I don’t think it’s any surprise that federal judges are taking notice when Yale seems to have abandoned these principles in favor of coercing uniformity of thought.”

Yale University

Also on “Fox & Friends,” Yale Law graduate and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy explained that this culture is not limited to Yale. 

“I would say Harvard and Stanford are equally bad in their own respects,” said Ramaswamy. “Imagine the tables were turned, suppose that it was conservative students objecting to a left-of-center speaker using similar tactics – there is little doubt that there would have been outcry at Yale and across elite institutions that these students were inciting violence.”

Waggoner disagreed, harking back to Ho’s earlier comments and saying that “Yale is particularly an issue.”

One of Ho’s 5th Circuit colleagues, Judge Jerry Smith, has called the boycott “regrettable” and said he hoped to receive more applications from Yale graduates.

Smith, a Yale graduate, was appointed by late Republican President Ronald Reagan.

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Yale did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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