Trump-appointed judges behind Yale boycott to speak at school next week

  • Judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch to speak at Yale on Nov. 30
  • Discussion will focus on "the state of free speech at Yale"

(Reuters) - Two prominent conservative federal appeals court judges who have been boycotting hiring Yale Law School students as law clerks to protest "cancel culture" at the school plan to speak at the university next week about whether free speech is "dead on campus."

U.S. Circuit Judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch, both appointees of former Republican President Donald Trump, are scheduled to appear at an event hosted by the William F. Buckley Program at Yale University on Nov. 30.

The event is titled "Is Free Speech Dead on Campus?" and is separate from a proposed event the judges agreed to speak at in January at the invitation of Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken.

Lauren Noble, the founder and executive director of the Buckley Program, called it "only natural" for it to take the lead to talking to the judges about the situation at Yale, whose "free speech environment has been deteriorating for some time."

"As the only organization dedicated to free speech and intellectual diversity at Yale, it was only natural for the Buckley Program to take the lead in talking to these federal judges about the situation on campus," she said in a statement.

The event will be moderated by Akhil Reed Amar, a well-known professor of law and political science at New Haven, Connecticut-based Yale and will be streamed on YouTube.

Ho, a judge on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, declined to comment. Branch, a judge on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, did not respond to a request for 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 law school.

He cited incidents in which students had disrupted conservative speakers at Yale Law School, 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, while others said they 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."

(NOTE: The first paragraph of this story has been updated for clarity.)

Read more:

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

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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

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