PROF. JENKINS: These future lawyers are too fragile to handle opposing arguments

Imagine hiring a lawyer who is so fragile, he or she can’t even bear to hear an opposing argument. If the incident at Stanford University is any indication, that may well be the future of the American legal profession.

Rob Jenkins is a Higher Education Fellow with Campus Reform and a tenured associate professor of English at Georgia State University - Perimeter College. In a career spanning more than three decades at five different institutions, he has served as a head men’s basketball coach, an athletic director, a department chair, and an academic dean, as well as a faculty member. Jenkins’ opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 

Imagine hiring a lawyer who is so fragile, he or she can’t even bear to hear an opposing argument. If a recent incident at Stanford University Law School is any indication, that may well be the future of the American legal profession.  

No doubt there are plenty of good lawyers. The problem is, as “equity” continues to supplant merit at law schools across the country, there will be fewer and fewer of them in the future.  

The incident I’m referring to at Stanford University, ostensibly one of the nation’s top law schools, took place earlier this month when a sitting circuit court judge, Kyle Duncan, was invited to campus by the Federalist Society to speak specifically to law students. 

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According to a report from Campus Reform, Stanford Law’s “Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” one Tirien Steinbach, attempted to upstage the judge by taking over the podium and lecturing him regarding his decisions from the bench, which she claimed had “caused harm.”  

Exactly what harm, and to whom, she didn’t say. 

Nevertheless, this went on for more than six minutes, during which—in between grammatical errors, hackneyed DEI cliches, and complaints about how “uncomfortable” she felt—the dean insisted repeatedly that she supported Duncan’s right to speak and was looking forward to his comments. 

Then she just kept talking. 

Meanwhile, Judge Duncan stood to the side, shaking his head in rueful disbelief and apparent pity as Steinbach made a complete ass of herself.  

The worst part, though, was that before she finally sat down, Steinbach encouraged any students who also felt “uncomfortable” to leave—and dozens did. It’s hard to tell from the video, which is focused primarily on the podium, but it looks like about half the room cleared out.  

Evidently, those students were making a statement that—what? They disagreed with the judge’s rulings? They found him so personally appalling they couldn’t even stand to be in the same room? They consider themselves morally superior?  

Right. We’ll see how that plays out when they enter practice in a few years—assuming they can pass the bar after spending three years learning about “racial justice” instead of actual justice.  

Or maybe they’ll just live charmed lives, in which no judge or opposing counsel ever disagrees with them. They better hope so, since that appears to be what Stanford Law is preparing them for.  

Stanford did send the judge a mealy-mouthed letter of apology, in which the school “re-affirmed” its putative “commitment to free expression” and acknowledged that the dean may have “intervened in inappropriate ways.”   

The damage, however, was done—to Judge Duncan, to the students (both those who wanted to listen and those who didn’t) and to the legal community. And it’s hard to imagine the school truly changing its ways, unless it plans on firing Steinbach and dissolving its DEI bureaucracy. 

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I suppose that could happen. Campus Reform reported earlier this week that the university’s College Republicans have called for the dean to be removed, citing her “appalling” behavior and referring to her tactics (rightly, in my view) as “fascistic.”  

But it seems unlikely. Even the vice president of the College Republicans acknowledges that he has not yet heard of “any punitive action” being taken against Steinbach.  

Meanwhile, anyone who hires a Stanford Law School grad after watching that video probably needs their head examined—unless that grad lists the Federalist Society or College Republicans on his or her CV.   

Apparently, conservative students are the only ones who still understand common professional courtesy, the Constitution, and the adversarial nature of our judicial system. 

Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.