Future Lawyers and Judges Against the First Amendment

Take some time to read Josh Blackman’s account of his recent lecture on free speech at CUNY Law School. It is at once infuriating and terrifying—today’s protester against “hate speech” is tomorrow’s lawyer, judge, and legislator. Blackman would not bow to the heckler’s veto, however.

The most jaw-dropping exchange occurs midway:

A student shouted out “Fuck the law.” This comment stunned me. I replied, “Fuck the law? That’s a very odd thing. You are all in law school. And it is a bizarre thing to say fuck the law when you are in law school.” They all started to yell and shout over me.

One student yelled at me, “You chose CUNY didn’t you. You knew what would happen.” At the time, I didn’t appreciate the significance of her question. The students apparently believed I picked CUNY because I wanted to be protested. This was the meaning of the “Don’t take the bait” comment. To the contrary! I had never been protested before. I was shocked that a lecture about free speech would occasion such a protest. Yet, once I found out they were going to protest me, I was not going to back down and withdraw. The hecklers at this public institution would not veto my speech. I would stand there as long as needed to make my point.

Ilya Shapiro has a story with commentary at The Federalist: “Josh supports the DREAM Act, and said so at CUNY, which provoked gasps and a cry of ‘gaslighting.’ His position is simply that this good policy needs to be legislated, that the president can’t enact it on his own. The protestors just couldn’t fathom that something can be a good idea and yet not legal.”

Shapiro notes that the university has no plans to discipline the student protesters, even though it appears they violated several provisions of the school’s Policy on Freedom of Expression and Expressive Conduct and the law school’s student handbook.

“In the end,” he writes, “Josh handled himself admirably and deserves kudos for persisting despite the opprobrium thrown his way. But this doesn’t bode well for the future.”

Update: I can’t believe I missed Mark Pulliam’s great piece at City Journal (so great, I’m a bit miffed we didn’t have it). “CUNY Law administrators shamefully took no action to prevent the disruptive protest, claiming later that a mob shouting down an invited speaker ‘did not violate any university policy,’” Pulliam notes. “CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek risibly stated that ‘CUNY Law students are encouraged to develop their own perspectives on the law in order to be prepared to confront our most difficult legal and social issues as lawyers promoting the values of fairness, justice, and equality.’ In other words, the school sanctions the suppression of disfavored opinions.”

Exactly. Happily, Blackman’s opinions weren’t suppressed in this case. But that may be due in part because the students did not try to force him off the podium. It could have been much worse.

About Ben Boychuk

Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. He is a former weekly syndicated columnist with Tribune Media, and a veteran of several publications, including City Journal, Investor's Business Daily, and the Claremont Review of Books. He lives in California.

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