Stanford Law School tries to succor Federalist Society by sending its members into the jaws of lions

March 13, 2023 • 12:00 pm

Get a load of this. Although Stanford University Law School is trying to make amends for the shameful display put on by its students last week, they continue to stick their feet deeper into the mud.

Yesterday I reported on the execrable deplatforming of Fifth Circuit federal appellate Judge Kyle Duncan during his scheduled talk at Stanford Law School (SLS). Students, outraged that a conservative judge should be given any platform, interrupted the Judge so persistently and loudly that he was forced to stop his speech. (His topic was the relationship between his court and the Supreme Court.)

The students had been egged on by Tirien Steinbach, the Law School’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Before Judge Duncan’s talk, she sent an email to the students explaining why Duncan was an oppressor And then when Duncan asked for faculty help in quelling the in-class demonstration, Steinbach stood up and read nine minutes of prepared remarks to Duncan explaining how awful and hurtful he was and how,  perhaps, Stanford’s policy of free speech wasn’t so great after all because it caused “harm”. As she suggested, perhaps the “juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.” Steinbach’s method of promoting harmony apparently involves setting groups against each other.

In a “mistakes-were-made” brand of email to the Stanford community, SLS Dean Jenny Martinez apologized for the incident without placing blame on anyone. But the next day, Martinez and Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne sent a joint apology to Judge Duncan promising that an incident like this would never happen again. Here’s that email:

Dear Judge Duncan,

We write to apologize for the disruption of your recent speech at Stanford Law School. As has already been communicated to our community, what happened was inconsistent with our policies on free speech, and we are very sorry about the experience you had while visiting our campus.

We are very clear with our students that, given our commitment to free expression, if there are speakers they disagree with, they are welcome to exercise their right to protest but not to disrupt the proceedings. Our disruption policy states that students are not allowed to “prevent the effective carrying out” of a “public event” whether by heckling or other forms of interruption.

In addition, staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.

We are taking steps to ensure that something like this does not happen again. Freedom of speech is a bedrock principle for the law school, the university, and a democratic society, and we can and must do better to ensure that it continues even in polarized times.

With our sincerest apologies again,
Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D.[,] President and Bing Presidential Professor
Jenny Martinez[,] Richard E. Lang Professor of Law & Dean of Stanford Law School

In the penultimate paragraph, they clearly place some of the blame on diversity dean Steinbach for inciting the disruption.  Will they discipline her, or at least tell her to lay off the incitement; and will Stanford discipline any of the disruptive students?  I’d bet money they won’t. And, of course, a policy that isn’t enforced is not a policy at all.

If Stanford were real mensches, they would invite Duncan back to deliver the talk he prepared, and ensure that the event would be peaceful. That won’t happen, either.

But in a really hamhanded gesture, Jeanne Merino, the SLS Associate Acting Dean of Students, “reached out” to the Federalist Society, which had invited Duncan, and offered them University sources of succor. What’s unbelievable is that one of the sources suggested was Steinbach, the diversity dean who escalated the whole affair.  They also offered help from the other two deans (and Merino herself), all of whom had been in the classroom and did nothing to stop the demonstration. You can read Merino’s email here. 

Here’s part of it (second bolding is mine)

2. Connection with OSA, DEI, Levin Center: Please reach out to any of us here at SLS if you would like support or would like to process last week’s events: a. OSA (Jeanne Merino,, Holly Parrish,, John Dalton, and Megan Brown,, b. DEI (Tirien Steinbach, c. Levin Center (Diane Chin,; Anna Wang,

Apparently, besides Conflagator Steinbach herself, Merino, as well as Associate Director of Student Affairs Holly Parrish and Student Affairs Program Coordinator Megan Brown, were all in the room—and did nothing— as the demonstration unfolded.  But to suggest that the Federalist Society should reach out to Dean Steinbach for comfort (not to mention to the other three as well) is like suggesting that the Roadrunner reach out for help to Wile E. Coyote.

Stanford has affirmed in writing that the juice (a climate conducive to learning) is indeed worth the squeeze (the school’s free-speech policy).  The real question is whether the juice is worth the squeeze of having a diversity dean who’s out of control.

These days, Stanford Law School (and its East Coast counterpart Yale Law School) are like a pair of cross-country soap operas. But it’s important to see that this kind of thing is inevitable so long as you claim that DEI programs are in complete harmony with free speech policies. As Steely Dan sang, “Only a fool would say that.”

22 thoughts on “Stanford Law School tries to succor Federalist Society by sending its members into the jaws of lions

      1. Neither do I. One of my colleagues here said, after he’d heard about the fracas, that Stanford will make many promises to do better and then nothing else will happen. I’m betting that that will be the outcome.

    1. I sure hope so, but no matter what they do, these DEI bureaucrats seem close to untouchable. It seems like the administration is making excuses for Steinbach.

  1. The law school here at least seemed to imply that that is not how any similar event would look like or take place. Maybe it is worthwhile to take the school at its word and the Fed Soc should just invite the judge again, same time and place, same subject/speech and take them at their word?

    At least that would establish that it was a mistake and not deliberate unwritten policy of the law school, which is the precendent that the DEI dean’s action does, in fact, establish, verbally and in action.

  2. Unfortunately, Stanford failed to offer the Federalist Soc. an opportunity to consult the
    Medical School’s Associate Dean for Wellness. Incidentally, the Wellness Dean reports to the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education whose name, so help me, is Dr. Neil
    Gesundheit. Disappointing indeed that Stanford’s Dr. Gesundheit did not reach out to the Federalists to help “process” the events, or at least tell them zei gezind..

  3. I went to the University of Pennsylvania law school back in the 1980s. We had some pretty angry people there, but I really think that there’d have been very little appetite for this sort of behavior — and the faculty back then wouldn’t have tolerated it, much less become involved in it.

    The thing is: law school is meant, among other things, to help you learn how to deal with a kind of managed conflict. Litigation is all about coming into a room where there is someone who, in your view, is a right bastard, and getting up to speak about how and why he is such a bastard and what you want done about it. But instead of trial by combat we have a formalized and structured method for resolving the dispute which involves not only having a civilized debate, but having that debate even when it’s patently obvious that someone is profoundly in the wrong.

    So there’s no room for being “triggered.” It’s your bloody job as a lawyer not to be triggered, but to be collected, to be cool, to be thinking instead of raging.

    I suspect I wouldn’t be one of Duncan’s fans, either. But the law provides the method, the structure and the ethos for saying WHY you think he’s a lunatic who’s going to set us back centuries, if that is what you think. And, by the way, even such a lunatic may have insights to offer on a subject like the relationship between the appellate courts and the Supreme Court. So if the students want to behave like an enraged mob, it’s time for the faculty to teach: teach them how to deal with this the way a lawyer would, which is at least part of what they’re there to learn. For faculty to pitch in is disgraceful.

  4. The next step of the low point.Try to strip the tenure track of people who try to say scientific discourse that doesn’t fit the blank slate (aka one of the foundations of Enlightenmentism)

    Also, for reasons known to every biologist, some researchers have stopped their work on certain human populations, and I think it’s a matter of time before this spreads to other parts of biology, especially now that academic Most biologists in the world are liberals, and it is scientific ethical behavior for them to refuse or even burn such research materials.

    Students who hold traditional scientific ethics are unlikely to get a certificate if they are not instilled. After all, the facts are so anti blank slate that it is difficult to make substantive results under the premise of being accused of racism and sexism. After all, in the past two centuries, almost all biological research results have been developed by racists and sexists, and the purpose of distinguishing differences is the driving force behind biological progress. Under this premise, the Enlightenment’s faith in human equality an obstacle to scientific progress.

    Therefore, liberals have enough reasons to kill babies in the cradle. After all, if biology is not to strengthen “stereotypes” (aka facts) and provide more advanced eugenic methods (aka means to reduce the number of disadvantaged people), it is to It is useless to improve human life. In this mentality, the development of biology can only be harmful rather than beneficial to enlightened society. This seems to be why the theory of evolution appeared in the Romantic Victorian era rather than the rational age before Rousseau.

  5. Have such incidents become more rare in recent years? My impression is that they have, compared to the early Trump years, but mostly because controversial speakers (especially the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos) are no longer invited.

    Another challenge: is there any group that is comparable to the university protesters? Recently, Liberty University hosted Bernie Sanders and its students were (as usually) well-behaved. It really seems to be a one-sided affair.

    1. Yes, somebody already noted that article, but it doesn’t square with the students’ subsequent behavior:see here. And how do you explain the diversity dean preparing a rebuke to the judge in advance and emailing a note to the students before he spoke to rile them up.

      Here, read this and see if you change your mind:

      There are multiple accounts of what happened, and you believe the one in Slate, blaming the judge for the disruption, which included posters put up with photos of the Federalist society officers in advance? In fact, I think you WANT to be duped into thinking the judge “set it all up.” Given the facts, that’s not credible at all.

      1. I read the Slate article. It’s true that the video on Vimeo starts only when Judge Duncan begins his interaction with Steinbach and yields his podium to her. There is some dying-out heckling as the video starts but clearly he has not been able to start his speech (or he would be giving it.) The video doesn’t tell us what happened exactly. Were the students shouting to prevent him from being heard, or just muttering and restless? Did someone from the sponsoring group — the Fed Soc chapter — introduce him and lay out the university’s ground rules for audiences in invited talks? What was DEI Dean Steinbach ostensibly doing there in the first place?

        It’s not clear to me, as the Slate writer implies, that he expressed disbelief that this dumpy black-ish woman could be an administrator at the dean level of a prestigious law school. His actual words aren’t audible to me. I could argue that he was taken aback that there was an administrator present all this time who had done nothing.

        The video covers her grossly inappropriate speech, not any of his, except when she directly addresses him with what are perhaps meant to be rhetorical questions and he tries to answer her, which does not seem to be interrupting in the circumstances. She invites students who wish to leave to do so. Many do, some carrying gay pride flags and signs. A funny moment comes when the judge notes that a student waving a sign has it upside down, to a chorus of boos, to which the judge chuckles with an eye-roll and repeats it. The camera shows that this is indeed true. The student leading the protest asks the students who didn’t walk out to be quiet so their own questions and statements can be heard, which is where the video ends. The video doesn’t show if Judge Duncan’s answers were allowed to be heard.

        The Slate article indicates that many in the audience were LGBTetc. — these days that means trans. Judge Duncan, says Slate, has been particularly hurtful and violent to trans people from his rulings and stated opinions that he doesn’t believe trans is a thing. Slate had very little to say about his other views, even on abortion, although gay marriage got a mention. This makes a penny drop for me, since the same tactics were used at McGill. I suspect this was an organized trans-activist protest although I get that his other views are unpopular with Stanford law students.

        Yes he will likely dine out on this experience. That’s politics. An own-goal by the Left. Don’t interrupt your enemy when he is in the middle of making a terrible blunder.

        The account in the Free Beacon of the student protest the next day against the Dean’s apology on behalf of the School is really creepy. The students who defied intimidation and did not join either protest were valorous. The one who said that a similar silent protest at Judge Duncan’s talk the day before would have been perfectly appropriate really gets it.

        1. Just to clarify, the answers to some of my questions are known, or knowable with some digging. I’m not asking for answers, just pointing out what I think are important questions in understanding this.

  6. Appalling behavior by the students and the dean. As you said, Jerry, both should be punished but neither will be.

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