Trump-appointed judges behind Yale boycott agree to speak at school

Nominations, James C. Ho, To Be United States Circuit Judge For The Fifth Circuit, Don R. Willett, Wednesday November 15 2017 10am
  • Judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch agree to speak at Yale event tentatively in January
  • Both judges say they will boycott hiring law clerks from Yale

Two federal appeals court judges appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump have accepted an offer to speak at Yale Law School after saying they would boycott hiring its students as law clerks to protest rampant "cancel culture" on its campus.

U.S. Circuit Judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch in a letter dated Oct. 13 accepted an offer from Dean Heather Gerken "to meet to discuss the state of freedom of speech and intellectual discourse at Yale Law School."

In the letter made public via legal journalist David Lat's newsletter "Original Jurisdiction," the judges agreed to sit for a panel discussion on Jan. 17, though they urged Gerken to consider an even earlier date if possible.

"We would love nothing more for the story of your deanship to be a record of success--and restoration of free speech and the rigorous exchange of ideas," the judges wrote.

Neither Ho, who sits on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, nor Branch, a member of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, responded to requests for comment.

Yale in a statement said that as "part of an ongoing lecture series that models engaging across divides, we are in the early stages of organizing a panel discussion for next semester with federal judges." It had no further comment.

Ho in a speech delivered at a Federalist Society event in Kentucky on Sept. 29 had said he would cease hiring clerks from the school.

He cited incidents in which students had disrupted conservative speakers at New Haven, Connecticut-based Yale, where he said "cancellations and disruptions seem to occur with special frequency," and urged other judges to likewise boycott Yale.

Branch on Oct. 7 became the first judge to publicly do so. Several other Republican-appointed judges have said they have no plans to join the boycott, and in some cases, actively oppose it.

Gerken in a letter to alumni on Oct. 12 did not reference the judges' boycott but outlined moves to "reaffirm our enduring commitment to the free and unfettered exchange of ideas" since March.

That month, a group of students disrupted a campus discussion with a conservative lawyer. In their Oct. 13 letter, Ho and Branch cited that event as evidence that Yale now ranks "among the worst when it comes to legal cancellation."

Read more:

Yale Law trumpets free speech stance amid judge's clerk-boycott push

Trump-appointed judge boycotts Yale for law clerks over 'cancel culture'

2nd Trump-appointed judge publicly says she will not hire Yale clerks

Yale Law dean rebukes 'rude and insulting' students who protested speaker

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com