Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Stanford 3L Who Mocked Federalist Society Will Be Allowed To Graduate

The Daily Beast, Stanford Reverses Hold on Student’s Law School Diploma After Federalist Society Satire:

Stanford Fed SocStanford University announced late Wednesday that it would release a hold put on a law student’s diploma during an investigation into a complaint against him for creating a fake flier parodying the conservative Federalist Society. A spokesman told Slate the school followed “normal procedures” in placing a hold on the diploma while it conducted an investigation into the email sent out by Nicholas Wallace. But the school concluded that “the email is protected speech... The university is not moving forward with the [Office of Community Standards] process and the graduation diploma hold has been released.”

Wallace had emailed a promotional flier for “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection,” a fictional event purportedly sponsored by the Stanford chapter of the Federalist Society, to a law school email listserv in January. Wallace’s fake colloquium promised insights from both Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from their work attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The flier read, “Violent insurrection, also known as doing a coup, is a classical system of installing a government.” Wallace had planned an actual event in March featuring reporters dissecting the links between the Federalist Society and the Jan. 6 insurrection. The Stanford chapter of the Federalist Society filed an official complaint about the flier in the same month, saying Wallace “defamed” the group and prompting the university to investigate. Wallace said in an email to fellow law students notifying them the complaint had been dropped, “I hope to work with Stanford in the little time I have left to make sure no student is subjected to an abuse of power this way again... PS this email is not satire.” He thanked fellow students for their support.

Open Letter From 59 Stanford Law Faculty Members Regarding the Nicholas Wallace Case:

We, the undersigned, are faculty at Stanford Law School who write to express our dismay over the university’s Office of Community Standards investigation of one of our students, Nicholas Wallace.  Wallace was named in a complaint filed against him under the Fundamental Standard after he posted a satirical e-mail lampooning the Federalist Society.   Wallace’s e-mail did not name any Stanford student: the only individuals named in the satire were public figures Senator Josh Hawley and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.  The e-mail was clearly satirical in nature and addressed a matter of urgent public concern, namely the January 6 riot in Washington, D.C.  Accordingly, any threat of punitive sanction should have been quickly rejected as inconsistent with the university’s established policies and its legal obligations under California’s Leonard Law.  We are embarrassed and angered that, instead, the Office of Community Standards initiated an investigation and placed a hold on Wallace’s graduation.  These actions are antithetical to the values this law school holds.

Although the university reversed its decision after national media attention, we are concerned about the effects on Wallace and on student culture more generally.  Incidents such as these have caused serious distrust among our students, who fear that our commitment to free speech is selective, and determined by power rather than principle.  We seek an explanation for how the decision in this most recent case was made.  Furthermore, we urge the university to work to eliminate perceptions of bias in its treatment of different kinds of speech and to collaborate with the faculty to develop clear and consistent principles that will govern its approach when similar issues arise.

(Hat Tip: Jeremy Bearer-Friend)

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