Today the Wall Street Journal published Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan’s firsthand account of what he experienced at Stanford Law School. Many people have seen the video showing the disruption of his speech by students and a DEI dean. In his account, Judge Duncan explains the hostility started before he even entered the building.
When I arrived, the walls were festooned with posters denouncing me for crimes against women, gays, blacks and “trans people.” Plastered everywhere were photos of the students who had invited me and fliers declaring “You should be ASHAMED,” with the last word in large red capital letters and a horror-movie font. This didn’t seem “collegial.” Walking to the building where I would deliver my talk, I could hear loud chanting a good 50 yards away, reminiscent of a tent revival in its intensity. Some 100 students were massed outside the classroom as I entered, faces painted every color of the rainbow, waving signs and banners, jeering and stamping and howling. As I entered the classroom, one protester screamed: “We hope your daughters get raped!”…
The protesters weren’t upset by the subject of my talk—a rather dry discourse on how circuit courts interact with the Supreme Court in times of doctrinal flux. Rather, I was their target. While in practice, I represented clients and advanced arguments the protesters hate—for instance, I defended Louisiana’s traditional marriage laws. As for my judicial decisions, among the several hundred I’ve written, the protesters were especially vexed by U.S. v. Varner. A federal prisoner serving a term for attempted receipt of child pornography (and with a previous state conviction for possession of child porn) petitioned our court to order that he be called by feminine pronouns. As my opinion explained, federal courts can’t control what pronouns people use. The Stanford protesters saw it differently: My opinion had “denied a transwoman’s existence.”
If you’re interested in reading more about US v Varner, Harvard Law Review has a lengthy description of the case here. Vox’s Ian Millhiser wrote about the case in 2020 and, of course, failed to mention that Varner had received a 15-year-sentence for child pornography. That may not be relevant legally but it’s certainly relevant when you’re making an emotional argument to curry favor with readers for your point of view, i.e. that Varner is just a gentle trans woman being treated cruelly for no reason by mean judges.
Judge Duncan describes the rest of the incident pretty much as you can see it yourself in the video, i.e. multiple interruptions until he asked for an administrator to restore order, followed by Dean Steinbach’s prepared remarks. That was followed by a Q&A which was just more heckling and disruption until Judge Duncan was finally escorted out by two US Marshals.
The most disturbing aspect of this shameful debacle is what it says about the state of legal education. Stanford is an elite law school. The protesters showed not the foggiest grasp of the basic concepts of legal discourse: That one must meet reason with reason, not power. That jeering contempt is the opposite of persuasion. That the law protects the speaker from the mob, not the mob from the speaker. Worst of all, Ms. Steinbach’s remarks made clear she is proud that Stanford students are being taught this is the way law should be.
There have been a lot of people on the left trying to argue this week that “woke” doesn’t have any real meaning or definition but this incident was a clear display of woke behavior in every sense. It was deplatforming of someone out of step with the extreme social justice views of the agitators, with an added dash of personal cruelty and vile behavior (wishing the judge’s daughters get raped). This is what woke looks like.
Speaking of what woke looks like, the Washington Free Beacon reports it was contacted by a group connected to the protest to demand that their names not be used.
One of the board members, Lily Bou, demanding that we remove her name and those of her classmates. "Listing our names serves no purpose other than to invite abuse and harassment," she wrote in an email.
I wonder what purpose the posters of the fedsoc board served.
— Aaron Sibarium (@aaronsibarium) March 17, 2023
This is the same group that posted a kind of wanted poster with the names and photos of people on the Federalist Society’s board. So it’s okay for them to name and shame but they don’t want the same treatment directed at them.