Stanford Apologizes After Law Students Disrupt Judge’s Speech

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Stanford University officials have apologized to a federal judge after law students disrupted his campus appearance last week, while a new video of the event showed the judge lashing out at the students’ behavior.

“What happened was inconsistent with our policies on free speech, and we are very sorry about the experience you had while visiting our campus,” Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne and law dean Jenny Martinez wrote in a Saturday letter to 5th U.S. Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, a 2018 appointee of former President Donald Trump.

Duncan visited the Palo Alto law school on Thursday to deliver remarks to the campus chapter of the conservative Federalist Society. The event was derailed by student protesters who said Duncan has taken positions that threatened the rights of LGBTQ people, immigrants, Black voters, women and others.

Video clips of the event show Duncan at times struggling to speak over the protesters’ shouts, while also refusing to answer some of their questions and criticizing them.

“In this school, the inmates have gotten control of the asylum,” he said in one clip, provided to Reuters by a student who requested their name be withheld.

Duncan said on Friday that the student protesters were “idiots” and “bullies,” while calling on the school to apologize for his treatment.

He also said he felt attacked by Tirien Steinbach, the law school’s associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. Steinbach addressed Duncan and students during the event, echoing the concerns protesters raised about his advocacy and judicial opinions while also clarifying his right to speak at the school.

Duncan on Saturday declined to comment on the university’s weekend response, but he pointed to a statement he issued to the conservative National Review saying he appreciated the apology and the acknowledgement that the law school’s staff failed to enforce its free speech policies.

“The administrators’ behavior was completely at odds with the law school’s mission of training future members of the bench and bar,” Duncan told the National Review.

Stanford’s apology did not directly reference Steinbach, but said staff members “intervened in inappropriate ways.”

Neither Steinbach nor a law school spokeswoman immediately responded to requests for comment Monday on the diversity dean’s status with the school.