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Home High profile 13 conservative judges each appointed by Trump declare to stop hiring assistants from Columbia Law School because of their strong disapproval of the recent campus protests and the university's handling of them

13 conservative judges each appointed by Trump declare to stop hiring assistants from Columbia Law School because of their strong disapproval of the recent campus protests and the university's handling of them


In response to campus protest arrests, conservative judges appointed by Trump say they won’t hire law clerks from the “once-distinguished” Columbia Law.

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Elizabeth Branch, James Ho

U.S. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch (left) (image via 11th Circuit Court of Appeals), (right) U.S. Circuit Judge James Ho of the Fifth Circuit pictured during a 2017 nomination hearing (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Thirteen conservative federal judges supported a letter to Columbia University and Columbia Law School leaders stating that students who occupied Hamilton Hall and encamped on the lawn during pro-Palestine protests unlawfully trespassed — and “absent extraordinary change,” the jurists won’t hire law clerks from the “once-distinguished” institution from now on, citing “lost confidence.”

The May 6 letter addressed to Columbia University President Minouche Shafik and cc-ing Columbia Law School Dean Gillian Lester began by saying that the institution was “ground zero for the explosion of students disruptions, anti-semitism, and hatred for diverse viewpoints on campuses across the Nation,” campus protests which together have led to some 2,000-plus arrests in recent weeks as the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza surpassed 200 days.

U.S. Circuit Judges Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch and James Ho, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Matthew Solomson, U.S. District Judges Alan Albright, David Counts, James Wesley Hendrix, Matthew Kacsmaryk, Jeremy Kernodle, Tilman “Tripp” Self, III, Brantley Starr, Drew Tipton, Daniel Traynor, and U.S. Court of International Trade Judge Stephen Alexander Vaden, all 13 of them appointed by former President Donald Trump, announced a “boycott” of hiring law clerks on the stated “objective” of saving Columbia University from itself.

The letter resembles a boycott that Branch and Ho endorsed before, slamming Yale University over “concerns about the lack of free speech on law school campuses.” The duo later penned a column in National Review calling for Stanford Law School students who disrupted fellow Trump-appointed U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan’s speech at Federalist Society event on campus.

The judges wrote that schools should “at a minimum […] identify the disrupters so that future employers know who they are hiring” and “inform employers if they’re injecting potentially disruptive forces into their organizations.”

This call was repeated again in their Columbia University letter.

More Law&Crime coverage: Campus protests: The First Amendment is about speech, not breaking the law, legal expert says

“Universities should also identify students who engage in such conduct so that future employee can avoid hiring them,” the judges said. “If not, employers are forced to assume the risk that anyone they hire from Columbia may be one these disruptive and hateful students.”

Saying that Columbia has “disqualified itself” as an educator of America’s future leaders by serving as an “incubator of bigotry,” the judges urged the university to dole out “[s]erious consequences for students and faculty who have participated in campus disruptions and violated established rules concerning the use of university facilities and public spaces and threats against fellow members of the university community.

The letter could be interpreted as referring to Jan. 6 defendants, though it did not offer specifics, to request expulsions of students or firings.

“In recent years, citizens have been told that illegally trespassing on and occupying public spaces is a sufficient reason to be put in jail,” the judges said. “So that same behavior should surely be enough to justify lesser actions such as expulsion or termination.”

From there, the judges made a difference between protected free speech and trespassing and/or “threats of violence or terrorism”; they assumed that if pro-life students who believe abortion to be a “tragic genocide” had staged a “campus uprising” the university would have stopped the protest quickly.

“It has become clear that Columbia applies double standards when it comes to free speech and student misconduct. If Columbia had been faced with a campus uprising of religious conservatives upset because they view abortion as a tragic genocide, we have no doubt that the university’s response would have been profoundly different,” the judges said. “By favoring certain viewpoints over others based on their popularity and acceptance in certain circles, Columbia has failed a legitimate, never mind elite, institution of higher education.”

In conclusion, the group of 13 said that Columbia “professors and administrators” who were “on the front lines of the campus disruptions” and encouraged “antisemitism” should be fired if the university can begin to “restore confidence” to a “dramatic” degree enough to lift the judges’ boycott.

“Considering recent events, and absent extraordinary change, we will not hire anyone who joins the Columbia University community—whether as undergraduates or law students—beginning with the entering class of 2024,” the letter said, asserting its intent was to “restore” academic freedom at Columbia, “not to hamper” it.

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