Paul L. Caron

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Will The ABA And California Bar Get Involved In The Stanford Law School Free Speech Imbroglio?

Aaron Sibarium (Washington Free Beacon), House Republicans Ask American Bar Association To Investigate Stanford Law School Over Duncan Disruption:

House Republicans are asking the American Bar Association to investigate Stanford Law School over the disruption of Fifth Circuit appellate judge Kyle Duncan, arguing that the law school is "out of compliance" with accreditation standards that require it to promote free speech.

Stanford violated that requirement, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce said in a Friday letter to the bar association, by allowing and even encouraging students to shout down Duncan last month. The committee emphasized the remarks of Tirien Steinbach, the law school diversity dean who took the podium from the judge and harangued him for causing "harm." ...

The American Bar Association requires each accredited law school to have a policy promoting academic freedom. Stanford’s policy, outlined in its faculty handbook, states that "the widest range of viewpoints" should be free from "coercion"—a condition the letter says no longer obtains at the law school.

"In no sense can it be said that Stanford Law School adhered to its announced encouragement of the 'widest range of viewpoints,'" the letter reads. "And in no sense were Judge Duncan's viewpoints 'free from … internal or external coercion.'"

Aaron Sibarium (Washington Free Beacon), This Law Professor Took on Nixon and Trump. Now He’s Facing Off Against Stanford Law School Students.:

[A]n emeritus professor at George Washington University Law School, ... [John] Banzhaf, 82, is among the most accomplished and aggressive public interest lawyers in the United States. ... Now this this self-proclaimed "legal terrorist" has set his sights on an unlikely target: the Stanford Law School students who shouted down Fifth Circuit appellate judge Kyle Duncan.

Banzhaf told Stanford earlier this month that he will file a character and fitness complaint against the students with the California state bar.

"It appears that you have not taken any steps to discipline or otherwise sanction the student violators," Banzhaf said in a letter to Jenny Martinez, the law school’s dean, who has since ruled out punishing the hecklers. As such, the complaint "will have links to video recordings of the disruption so that bar officials can judge the students’ conduct for themselves."

The California bar requires applicants to demonstrate "respect for the rights of others and for the judicial process." That means the students who disrupted Duncan—in part by telling him "we hope your daughters get raped"—could be in for a rude awakening if Banzhaf makes good on his threat.

This incident "seriously calls into question whether these students have proper temperament to practice law," Banzhaf told the Washington Free Beacon. "It is completely unacceptable to shout down any speaker—much less a federal judge—and then face no consequences."

Such statements have made Banzhaf the strange bedfellow of Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who this month urged the Texas bar to "take particular care" with graduates of Stanford Law School. The horseshoe suggests that outrage about Duncan’s treatment crosses partisan divides—and offers a blueprint to fill the disciplinary void left by other elite law schools, which have refused to punish blatant violations of their free speech policies.

Anyone can file a bar complaint, including across state lines. And, Banzhaf says, the complaints needn’t derail anyone’s career in order to be effective: Even the threat of an investigation—or a delayed and stressful bar application—could deter would-be disruptors, sending the message that actions have consequences. ...

Though the California state bar is among the most progressive in the nation, its committee of bar examiners, who handle character and fitness issues, is older and relatively more conservative, Banzhaf said. It also includes at least one judge, with most members appointed by the California Supreme Court—factors that could make it less well-disposed to Duncan’s hecklers.

"Judges in particular should be outraged that a fellow judge received this kind of treatment," Banzhaf said. "My guess is that the California bar will take this seriously."

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