Exclusive: Another Federal Judge Joins Boycott of Yale Law

October 11, 2022 in News by RBN Staff



Source: National Review

Elizabeth Branch becomes the 14th federal judge to refuse to hire clerks from the school over free-speech concerns.


Elizabeth Branch, a federal judge serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, is joining a concerted push by conservatives on the federal judiciary to no longer hire clerks from Yale Law School. Judge Branch, who was nominated for the Eleventh Circuit by Donald Trump in 2017, informed National Review of her decision in response to NR’s inquiry about the trend, citing the “legitimate concerns” that had been “recently raised . . . about the lack of free speech on law school campuses, Yale in particular.” Branch is the 14th federal judge to have pledged to decline clerkships from Yale Law over the course of the past nine days.

The push to remove Yale Law clerkship applicants from consideration began last Thursday, when NR broke the news that Judge James C. Ho, who serves on the Fifth Circuit, delivered a speech at a Kentucky Federalist Society conference titled, “Agreeing to Disagree — Restoring America by Resisting Cancel Culture,” that cited Yale Law as “one particular law school where cancellations and disruptions seem to occur with special frequency.” “Starting today, I will no longer hire law clerks from Yale Law School,” Judge Ho announced. “And I hope that other judges will join me as well.”

The news, pitched by Ho as an effort to “at least send the message that other schools should not follow in Yale’s footsteps,” made major waves in legal circles, earning both fervent praise and vociferous criticism and even provoking debate within some conservative circles — including at National Review — about the appropriate strategy for confronting the threats to free and open debate on elite law-school campuses. Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) tweeted that he was “incredibly proud of Judge Ho’s takedown of cancel culture,” calling the move “a courageous and important stand that I hope other judges will replicate.” Others, such as Judge Jerry Smith, a Reagan appointee who serves with Ho on the Fifth Circuit, criticized the decision: “Instead of boycotting, I hope to receive even more Yale applications from qualified men and women, not only this year but in future years,” wrote Smith, who did not explicitly reference Ho by name.

But in the wake of the fierce debate surrounding Judge Ho’s announcement, twelve more federal judges joined the boycott of the nation’s top-ranked law school earlier this week, “citing a slew of scandals that they say have undermined free speech and intellectual diversity,” the Washington Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium reported. The judges, “all of whom requested anonymity in order to speak freely,” hailed from both circuit and district courts, Sibarium wrote, adding:

If the boycott catches on among other right-leaning judges, it could deal a serious blow to Yale Law School, which has maintained the top spot in the U.S. News and World Report rankings since the publication began ranking law schools in the 1980s. Clerkships, particularly on the federal bench, are coveted jobs in the legal profession, and many students choose Yale over other elite law schools because its graduates have historically had the best shot of clerking for prominent judges.

When asked for a comment on Judge Ho’s speech and the growing number of federal judges joining the boycott, Judge Branch told NR of her decision to add her name to the list:

My friend, Judge Jim Ho, recently raised legitimate concerns about the lack of free speech on law school campuses, Yale in particular. 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. Accordingly, I accept Judge Ho’s invitation to join him in declining to consider students from Yale Law School for clerkships with me, with an exception for past and current students.

Notably, one initial criticism leveled at Judge Ho’s speech was that Ho alone would not have the clout to affect Yale Law by withholding clerkships. “Perhaps I’m underestimating Ho’s clout, but I can’t imagine students turning down coveted seats at the nation’s most prestigious law school because he put it on his personal blacklist,” the lawyer Vivia Chen wrote in Bloomberg Law earlier this week. “And what are the odds that other federal judges, even unabashed conservative ones, will trash the resumes of awesome Yalies because of the school’s woke reputation?”

If the growing momentum of the 14-federal-judge-strong boycott is any indication, those odds appear to be quite high.