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EDITORIAL: Law students shout down the First Amendment

The disdain law students and their administrators show the First Amendment and differing viewpoints should be a major societal concern.

Earlier this month, federal circuit court Judge Kyle Duncan appeared at Stanford Law School to give a speech. He came at the invitation of the Federalist Society. His talk was titled, “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter.” Such gatherings are one of the benefits of attending an elite law school.

Instead, what took place would have gotten a preschooler sent home for the day. Many Standard law students were angry that Judge Duncan was coming, because he is — gasp! — a traditional conservative. Some held up profane signs in the room where he was speaking. As he began his lecture, many students shouted and heckled him with taunts such as “scumbag” and “you’re a liar.”

This is wildly inappropriate, but it has become the norm from the “tolerant” left.

Ironically, Stanford claims to have a strong free speech policy. It is a violation to “prevent or disrupt the effective carrying out of a University function or approved activity, such as lectures … and public events.”

But the words on a page don’t mean much if those in charge won’t enforce them. After numerous disruptions, Judge Duncan noted that the “prisoners were now running the asylum.” An apt description. He asked the school administration to calm the students. Up came Tirien Steinbach, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. Instead of bringing the students into line, she verbally attacked the federal judge.

“This event is tearing at the fabric of this community that I care about and am here to support,” she said. She smeared his speech as “abhorrent” and “harmful.” She claimed it “literally denies the humanity of people.”

There a deep irony in a mob of screaming zealots claiming that allowing a lone federal judge to deliver an address is harmful.

Stanford’s president and dean have since apologized, but, without disciplining the offending students and Ms. Steinbach, it won’t mean much. Instead, what the lawyers of tomorrow are learning is that might makes right. The students have a right to protest, of course. But they don’t have a right to essentially vandalize campus events on public property. Instead, they learn that minority voices can be bullied and silenced by majority power. That the words on a page — whether they be Stanford’s free speech policy or the First Amendment — can be ignored at their convenience.

It’s deeply troubling that the lawyers of tomorrow appear more interested in exercising tyrannical authority than respecting diverse viewpoints and individual rights.

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