Federal judges boycott Yale law grads, citing free speech concerns
Federal judge James Ho’s called announced he would boycott hiring law clerks from Yale Law School, with a second judge joining.
Yasmine Halmane, Photography Editor
Yale Law School graduates can cross a few clerkships from their list of job prospects next summer.
U.S. Circuit Judge James Ho called for a boycott of hiring law clerks from Yale in a speech to a Federalist Society conference in Kentucky on Sep. 29. Ho — who was appointed by former United States President Donald Trump — cited concerns about free speech, saying Yale tolerates “cancel culture,” especially against conservatives.
Federal Appeals Court Judge Elizabeth Branch announced she would join the boycott in a statement to the National Review released Oct. 7.
“I don’t want to cancel Yale,” Ho told Reuters. “I want Yale to stop cancelling people like me.”
According to employment lists obtained by the News for the Yale Law classes of 2019, 2021 and 2022, no Yale Law graduates from any of these classes reported first clerkships with Ho or Branch. The most recent Yale Law graduate hired by Ho graduated in 2017.
Aggrey Odera LAW ’23 pointed out that the boycott was ironic, since those who participate in and embrace alleged “cancel culture” would not likely want to work for a judge such as Ho. This boycott would only shut out the voices of conservative Yale Law students, Odera told the News.
“I find it funny — and counterintuitive if his ends actually are conservative — that a conservative judge would deny clerkship opportunities to conservative Yale Law students … as a means of punishing the school,” Odera wrote in an email to the News.
In his speech, Ho referenced previous events that have taken place within the Law School, one of which followed the backlash surrounding a controversial email — seen as racially insensitive to many — inviting students to an event co-hosted by the Federalist Society.
Dean of Yale Law School Heather Gerken responded to that incident with an email defending free speech while emphasizing a desire to create an inclusive environment for students.
“The vigorous exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of this Law School,” Gerken wrote in an email to students following the incident. “Protecting free speech is a core value of any academic institution; so too is cultivating an environment of respect and inclusion. These two values are mutually reinforcing and sit at the heart of an intellectual community like ours.”
Branch — also a Trump appointee — is the first federal judge to publicly join Ho’s boycott, raising concern “about the lack of free speech on law school campuses, Yale in particular.”
Ho also cited free speech concerns over student protests against Kristen Waggoner — a speaker invited by the Federalist Society for her role as general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. The Alliance Defending Freedom has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This designation, alongside her past anti-LGBTQ+ comments, caused more than 120 students to gather in protest as armed police officers were called to respond.
“I think that it is troubling when Yale Law School, which presents itself as the nation’s top law school, doesn’t recognize that protest is a valid political expression and also protected speech,” Rachel Perler LAW ’22 told the News earlier this year. “[It’s] just ironic that students who showed up to engage in free speech, either by asking questions or by protesting the event, were faced with armed police.”
The Federalist Society at Yale Law School declined to comment.
Ho joined the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018.