FPI / March 26, 2023
The diversity administrator at Stanford Law School has been placed on leave and all law students at the university will be required to take "freedom of speech" training after the administrator publicly scolded a Trump-appointed judge who had been invited to speak at a recent law school event only to be shut down by heckling students.
Tirien Steinbach, an associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Stanford, stoked a disruptive protest of Fifth Circuit appellate Judge Kyle Duncan on March 9, telling the judge "your work caused harm."
Hecklers at the event were particularly angry at Duncan for a 2020 opinion in which he refused to use a transgender sex offender’s preferred pronouns. In comments to the Washington Free Beacon, the judge described the incident as a “bizarre therapy session from hell.”
Duncan was never given a chance to read his prepared remarks.
The Free Beacon reported on Wednesday that Stanford Law School Dean Jenny Martinez said in a memo to all law students that administrators "should not insert themselves into debate with their own criticism of the speaker's views." At future talks, the role of administrators will be to "ensure that university rules on disruption of events will be followed," Martinez said.
Although she ruled out disciplining any of the students who shouted down Duncan, Martinez said the law school will require all students to attend training on "freedom of speech and the norms of the legal profession," which will discuss, among other things, how "vulgar personal insults" can harm students' "professional reputations."
During Duncan's appearance at Stanford, student protesters hurled sexual invective at him, with one allegedly telling him, "We hope your daughters get raped."
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and other lawmakers have called for state bar associations to investigate the hecklers, which could potentially hold up their legal licenses.
Martinez in her memo spent several pages explaining to students at Stanford — the second-ranked law school in the country, behind Yale — why the Constitution does not protect disruptive heckling.
"Settled First Amendment law allows many governmental restrictions on heckling to preserve the countervailing interest in free speech," Martinez wrote, noting that the Leonard Law, a California state statute, applies aspects of the First Amendment to private universities. It "does not treat every setting as a public forum where a speech free-for-all is allowed."
Free Press International
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