Law school is often romanticized as a safe space for the exchange of ideas and to learn the rules of the land. Ask the folks still in it and they will likely tell you that it is really a place that costs a lot of money, has a teacher or two who enjoys seeing their students squirm a bit too much when they fail cold calls, and is a place where you go if you want to lay low for a bit. People go out of their way to not stick out in law school — they keep their grades to themselves, talk enough to be social but not enough to be thought of as a blabbermouth, and ride the curve until they get their fancy paper. But sometimes, life happens on the road to your JD. Maybe there’s a failed coup or the Supreme Court reverses lines of civil-rights-securing doctrine that go back over a century or, I don’t know, there’s a workhouse in St. Louis whose existence you want to protest before afternoon torts.
You get my point. The world does not wait until studies are over to intervene and sometimes that urge to protest overtakes the impulse to study for Con Law. What’s the point of the darn thing if it isn’t a living document, right? What better way to learn about the First Amendment than to act on it? Not so fast if you want a job. From Bloomberg Law:
Two federal appeals court judges say law schools should consider informing potential employers if students participate in protests that disrupt speakers on campus.
Fifth Circuit Judge James Ho and Eleventh Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch wrote in the National Review that law schools should punish students who participate in “disruptive tactics” and said they’re failing to “teach students how to become good citizens.”
What does “good citizen” mean, here? A person who doesn’t act on their convictions for fear that it could cost them their livelihood? Docile bodies that are ready-made to follow orders from employers rather than speak on their own behalf? And while we’re on the topic of the “good,” is this how a “good” judge responds when they are asked to explain their opinions?
Or is this a “good” example of judicial decorum?
Keep in mind that the school snitching the judges advocated for makes no distinction between the student being a problem for calmly asking the judge to justify their opinion, or the student who got called an appalling idiot by some judge with a Supercuts hairdo and a wrinkled blue tie. The intended impact of such announcements by judges is clear. Chilling effects on the free speech of future lawyers.
I can imagine the scenario now: some student will get a callback interview and, after the pleasantries of asking about each other’s weekend, the interviewer will dig into the student’s presence at the [insert literally anything that someone can have a political opinion on] rally. (Let’s not even get into hypothetical scenarios where the student accused of being there wasn’t even at the event — if you didn’t go to school with at least one person who was vindictive enough to fabricate a story if it meant damaging a cohort member’s job prospects then our law school experiences were worlds apart.) Do we really need to give firms extra ammo to not hire people who were caught attending a civil rights protest? And you can try to paint the legal industry as a leftist sanctuary all you want, but it is hard to believe that is really the case with resume advice like this going around.
Also, what is with the uneven support of constitutional rights? People stand on their NRA-dogma-now-Second-Amendment rights and face… competitions over who gets to give them a job!
Let’s not play at not knowing what this is — cherrypicked chest puffing about the First Amendment that protects anyone to the right of center and shames anyone to the left of it. I wouldn’t care nearly as much if this were a Fox News anchor doing it — that would be on brand and they openly admit that their audience is a bunch of braindead traitors. What is shameful is that judges, you know, the ones who are oath-bound to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, are the ones pushing ideology masked as neutral maintenance of law and order.
If you ask me, these judges all have a goofy precept of what acceptable forms of protest is. This is America, for God’s sake! They act like the only acceptable form of protest is that which is civil. First off, the first Duncan clip looks a lot more like a bunch of nerds quibbling over an author’s word choice than the bombastic and disrespectful gnashing of teeth Republicans are trying to make this out to be. Second, newsflash, and I’m pretty sure history backs me on this — protest is what happens when civil means of communication lose their efficacy. The behavior of these students is a far cry from the forms of protest that are deeply rooted in this nation’s history like destruction of property, torture, and lynchings. What happened to those at the bench knowing our history? It is ahistoric and in bad faith to pretend that these “protests” are the threats to decorum that they are pretending that they are.
Judges Want ‘Disruptive’ Law Students Flagged to Employers [Bloomberg Law]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.
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