Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Lat: A Controversial Speaker Returned To Yale Law—You Won't Believe What Happened Next

Following up on my previous post, Yale Law School Restricts Access To FedSoc Free Speech Panel Today To Avoid Repeat Of Last Year's Controversy:  David Lat (Original Jurisdiction), A Controversial Speaker Returned To Yale Law—You Won't Believe What Happened Next:

Yale Law Logo (2020)Kristen Waggoner of the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom spoke at YLS on Tuesday; how was she received?

This past Tuesday, January 24, Kristen Waggoner returned to Yale Law, this time to discuss 303 Creative LLC v. Eleniswhich she argued before the Supreme Court in December. Waggoner’s client in 303 Creative is a Colorado website designer who doesn’t want to design websites for same-sex weddings, and the case presents the following question: “Whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”

303 Creative is one of the most interesting, important, and high-profile cases of the current Term, so it’s obvious why a law student group might want to host an event with one of the lawyers who argued it. In other words, I don’t consider the invitation to Waggoner to be “trolling” by the Yale Federalist Society, i.e., something done for the sole purpose of antagonizing the left.

In addition, Yale FedSoc arranged for Waggoner to be joined by two other speakers: Professor Nadine Strossen of New York Law School, who served as president of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1991 to 2008, and Professor Robert Post of Yale Law School, which he led as Dean from 2009 to 2017. Professors Post and Strossen are two of the nation’s leading scholars of the First Amendment, so an event featuring them plus Kristen Waggoner is impressive. ...

So how did Tuesday’s YLS event with Kristen Waggoner go?

In a word, swimmingly—which might surprise or even shock people who are used to associating the words “Yale Law School” with “free-speech debacle.” ...

[W]hat explains the difference between last year’s event, which was a circus, and this year’s event, which was a success? There are lessons to be had for both student organizations and law school administrators. ...

Critics of YLS would probably also note that the faculty is still sorely lacking in intellectual diversity, without a single conservative professor of public law, e.g., constitutional law. It’s possible that Judges Ho and Branch might want to see some movement on faculty hiring as well before declaring themselves satisfied that Yale Law is fully reformed.

So it might be premature for defenders of free speech and intellectual diversity to declare victory at YLS. But at least there’s now reason for cautious optimism from folks who care about these values—and who care about Yale Law School.

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