Ethics Quote Of The Month: D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Laurence Silberman

“The latest events at Yale Law School in which students attempted to shout down speakers participating in a panel discussion on free speech prompts 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 for potential clerkships.”

—Judge Silberman in a letter to his fellow judges, in reference to the disruption of a March 10 panel at Yale Law School that was intended as a debate over civil liberties  hosted by the Yale Federalist Society. About a hundred students attempted to prevent the panel and Federalist Society members in attendance from speaking.

Well, you know: Yale. Equally disturbing, perhaps, was that Ellen Cosgrove, the law school’s associate dean, attended the panel, was present the entire time, and did nothing to restrain the protesters nor remind them of their ethical duties.

The school has a policy that specifically condemns such speech-chilling conduct, but more than 10 days after the event, no consequences appear to be forthcoming for the privileged and arrogant thugs who are going to be entrusted with the task of protecting future attacks on Constitutional liberties.

In an editorial endorsing the judge’s suggestion, the Wall Street Journal wrote in part,

Some readers may think these students should be forgiven the excesses of youth. But these are adults, not college sophomores. They are law students who will soon be responsible for protecting the rule of law. The right to free speech is a bedrock principle of the U.S. Constitution. If these students are so blinkered by ideology that they can’t tolerate a debate over civil liberties on campus, the future of the American legal system is in jeopardy.


Hard core civil liberties advocate Prof. Jonathan Turley was predictably horrified by the Yale censorship, though he cannot have been surprised. He wrote in part,

[A]dministrators are either supportive of such cancelling efforts or fearful in being tagged the next racist or reactionary by a mob. So we have scenes like the one at Yale Law School… [F]ree speech was once taught as a defining right in our system. As shown recently at Georgetown Law School, free speech is often portrayed today more as a threat rather than a guarantee in our system….The event was precisely what law schools once strived to present in sharing diverse viewpoints and allowing for the opportunity of dialogue on issues that are important to our society….

There is no indication that Yale will enforce its rules and hold anyone responsible for disrupting the event. That is a common pattern in schools ranging from Northwestern to Georgetown. What is also notable is the silence of most of the faculty at Yale. That is also a common factor in these attacks on dissenting viewpoints on campuses. The message is clear. Events featuring dissenting views, particularly from conservative or libertarian speakers, will not be tolerated….

It is an all-too-familiar pattern being played out across the country. The record of most schools is at best passive aggressive in declining to enforce their free speech rules. The result is a chilling effect on free speech that is perfectly glacial.

These are fine words as far as they go, but when is Professor Turley going to come right out and say the quiet part: that one side of the ideological spectrum has chosen to oppose and weaken the rights of free speech and expression in order to stifle opposition to its increasingly rigid and totalitarian agenda?


Pointer: Dr. Emilio Lizardo

4 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Month: D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Laurence Silberman

  1. I was reading responses to an article regarding the Babylon Bee being shuttered from Twitter earlier. (An article about the champion emale swimmer being in trouble for possessing performance-enhancing testicles.) The overwhelming response from the crowd on the left seemed to be that the right was only getting shut down for hate speech. The left never gets shut down for hate speech, because they are not full of hate like those nasty conservatives. The rules are being applied evenly after all! Heads, they win, tails we lose.

  2. According to the left, children never become adults. They are children forever. These alleged adults in the Yale Law School student body are children. They’ll never grow up. They don’t have to. At some point, these children will be running major companies and law firms and running the SEC and getting elected to national offices. Depressing. There’s a real goat rodeo bearing down on our society.

    • Thanks, Jack. While I appreciate the shout-out, I’m even more appreciative of the fact that you posted details of this debacle to your website.
      TL;DR – actions should have consequences!

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