Stanford Law Students Scream at Federal Appellate Judge, Call Him ‘Scum,’ After He Is Invited To Speak at Prestigious School

‘You’ve invited me to speak here, and I’ve been heckled nonstop,’ the judge tells the seething crowd as a dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion denounces him for causing ‘pain.’

Ethics and Public Policy Center
A federal appeals court judge, Kyle Duncan, at Stanford Law School on March 10, 2023. Ethics and Public Policy Center

A conservative federal judge on the Fifth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals was screamed at on Thursday by dozens of Stanford Law School students who disagreed with his rulings, bringing new light to the conversation about freedom of speech at America’s elite universities.

At an event titled “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter,” Judge Kyle Duncan was met by an angry crowd of students and faculty. The judge had been invited to speak by the Stanford chapter of the conservative Federalist Society. 

A video of the event — posted by the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center — begins as dozens of students are yelling at the judge. Judge Duncan had apparently requested an administrator to calm the crowd, and he allowed the assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion to address the room. 

Judge Duncan told the dean: “so, you’ve invited me to speak here and I’ve been heckled nonstop, and I’ve asked for an administrator —” before being cut off again by the crowd. One student yelled “your racism is showing” because Judge Duncan was speaking over the dean, who is Black. 

The dean then took the podium to address the crowd. “I had to write something down because I am so uncomfortable up here,” she said. “Your advocacy, your opinions from the bench land as absolute disenfranchisement of their rights,” she said as she turned to face Judge Duncan. 

“Is your speaking here worth the pain that it has caused, the division it has caused?” she asked. 

After she concluded her remarks, most of the protesters left the room and walked by Judge Duncan, calling him “scum” and asking him if he felt safer now that the protesters were leaving.

It is not immediately clear if the judge finished his prepared remarks. 

Before taking his seat on the federal bench, Judge Duncan litigated conservative causes, including an argument against gay marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Judge Duncan has received attention for issuing a number of controversial opinions on abortion, the death penalty, and vaccine mandates since taking the bench in 2018. He also announced his refusal to using a transgender inmate’s “assumed name and preferred pronouns.” 

Elite institutions like Stanford Law School have come into the national spotlight in recent years for events like the one Judge Duncan faced — students yelling at invited speakers with whom they disagree as their protests are either permitted or encouraged by the school’s bureaucracy. 

Yale Law School is another one of those institutions. In response to similar events, Judge James Ho — also of the Fifth Circuit — announced that he would no longer hire clerks from Yale, saying “disruptions seem to occur with special frequency.” 

Judge Elizabeth Branch of the Eleventh Circuit told National Review that she would follow Judge Ho’s lead. “Like Judge Ho, I am gravely concerned that the stifling of debate not only is antithetical to this country’s founding principles, but also stunts intellectual growth,” she said in an interview. 

The New York Sun

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