Buckley Program to host judges boycotting Yale Law School
Judges James C. Ho and Elizabeth Branch, who said they will bar future Yale Law graduates from their clerkships, will come to campus on Wednesday for a conversation on free speech.
Federal judges leading a boycott against Yale Law School will soon arrive on campus at the invitation of Yale’s primary conservative student organization.
The Nov. 30 discussion, titled “Is Free Speech Dead on Campuses?”, will be hosted by the William F. Buckley Jr. Program in William L. Harkness Hall. The speakers, Judges James C. Ho and Elizabeth Branch, announced their decision to bar future graduates of Law School from their clerkships over concerns about the institution’s culture around free speech in September. The event will be moderated by law professor Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84.
The boycott’s ties to free speech debates make the Buckley Program a “natural” fit for such an event, said Buckley Program founder and executive director Lauren Noble ’11.
“Yale’s free speech environment has been deteriorating for some time,” Noble wrote to the News. “We are glad that these judges have brought this problem to national attention and look forward to working with them to make Yale a welcome home for a wide range of perspectives.”
The Buckley Program aims to promote free speech, intellectual diversity and “serious conservative thought,” according to its mission statement. The program has made waves on campus for hosting high-profile, right-wing figures — this year, they have hosted Texas senator Ted Cruz and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Both Ho and Branch are staunch conservatives.
“[Buckley] serves as a group that challenges you to grapple with a diversity of political, legal, and intellectual perspectives,” Axel de Vernou ’25, a Buckley Student Fellow, told the News. “The experts they invite are practitioners with a rich background in their craft.”
The two judges said in a letter published online earlier this month that they had also been invited to campus by Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken for a January event. The law school’s press office declined to comment for this story and has not confirmed whether the proposed January event will take place.
According to Noble, the program is one of the largest student organizations on campus, boasting a record 526 Buckley Fellows, including students in Yale College and the professional and graduate schools.
Despite making national headlines, Jake McDonald LAW ’25 said the event featuring Ho and Branch has gone largely under the radar of students at Yale Law School. However, McDonald added that he hopes the talk “will highlight the ongoing need for an active exchange of ideas on campus.”
Judge Ho announced his boycott at the Kentucky Chapter of the Federalist Society after speaking out against “cancel culture” and identifying boycotting institutions that engage in a culture of cancellation as a solution to dwindling free speech in the legal profession.
Ho went on to qualify that he would only enforce the boycott for students who matriculated to Yale Law School after his announcement, meaning that students currently attending Yale Law School would not be penalized by the decision.
“[Students should] think about the kind of legal education they want, and the kind of academic environment that will help them grow,” Ho said at the conference.
This is not the first Buckley event of the semester centering around free speech. Early this month, the program hosted a seminar with Floyd Abrams LAW ’60, founder of the Floyd Abrams Institute of Free Speech at the Law School.
“Yale’s free speech environment has been deteriorating for some time,” Noble wrote. “We are glad that these judges have brought this problem to national attention and look forward to working with them to make Yale a welcome home for a wide range of perspectives.”
The Buckley Program was launched in 2011.