Opinion by Washington Examiner
Law students who oppose the twin constitutional pillars of free speech and the sanctity of contracts should never work as lawyers. Journalism students who oppose free speech should also never work in a professional newsroom.
Colleges that encourage their students to embrace illiberal positions against two of the things that make America great are depriving the nation of a new generation of competent professionals. They are doing the nation a grave disservice, to say nothing of the students they are misleading. And they should not be permitted to get away with it.
Recent developments at Yale Law, Georgetown Law School, the University of Virginia, and elsewhere point to a frightening trend that could render these and other institutions unfit to teach or proffer degrees that employers will want to honor.
This fall, Georgetown Law School will require all first-year students to take a contracts course that is really an anti-contracts course. It does not teach basic principles of contract law so that students can become competent lawyers — rather, it propagates an ideology that all American property law is rooted in “the history of dispossession and appropriation” and that “intellectual property has a cultural appropriation problem.” Georgetown students will also be forced to waste time that should be used to learn the law taking an elective course “certified” to “focus on the importance of questioning the law’s neutrality.”
This is a truly noxious trend that undermines this nation’s greatest treasure — the rule of law. Indeed, it is the law of contracts that hinders powerful people from dispossessing the weak. Property rights, as Peruvian scholar Hernando de Soto has shown through a career of research, are the surest safeguard against a situation like that in Russia today, where only those who latch on to the powerful can be safe in their possessions and everyone else can be dispossessed. The superwealthy and the oligarchs always have special privileges, but only contracts and strong property rights can protect ordinary people.
Georgetown’s anti-contract nonsense might not seem unusual coming from a law school that already beclowned itself by suspending incoming legal scholar Ilya Shapiro for an innocuous tweet. This school provided student protesters catered food and a “space to cry” about their hurt feelings. It’s not just that Georgetown is obviously not preparing people to serve competently in the hard-nosed legal profession. It is also that Georgetown’s dean lacks the spine to protect free speech and free thought, the entire purpose of his institution.
Shapiro, who has patiently endured thuggish mobs that shut down debate, is just one of many being subjected to a “heckler’s veto” by little, narcissistic tyrants who despise the First Amendment. On March 10, attorney Kristen Waggoner was similarly shouted down and threatened at Yale Law. In reply, some 1,400 Yale alumni, activists, elected officials, and distinguished lawyers wrote an April 7 letter blasting the Yale administration’s mealy-mouthed response to the incident. They rightly demanded disciplinary actions against the students who took it upon themselves not to make counterarguments but to trample free speech.
The alumni letter is on target. “Our nation desperately needs the next generation of attorneys, legislators, judges, and Supreme Court justices to be marked by the character and values that undergird the American legal profession and a free society,” the alumni wrote. “These include, at the very least, respect for the right to freedom of speech.”
Students who join mobs to shut down free speech show themselves as proto-totalitarians. Such people are unfit to practice in courts of law. That’s why veteran judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was fully justified in suggesting such students “be disqualified from potential clerkships” with “all federal judges.”
But that’s not really enough — further repercussions are warranted, especially in the area of law, which has its own code of ethics. Law firms should think twice about hiring anyone who, as a law student, violates the free speech rights of others, and particularly grievous offenders should risk banishment from the bar itself. Their denial of others’ rights should be viewed as an ethical breach, disqualifying them from even taking the bar exam.
Likewise, if Georgetown Law School continues down its anti-contract path, it will be preparing graduates to fail their clients. Law firms should think twice before hiring law school graduates so poorly trained, whose view of contracts is deformed by woke silliness.
Of course, the journalistic profession is in even worse shape already. But to see how much worse it could get, consider the truly worrisome development at the University of Virginia. An official editorial of the Cavalier Daily argued against allowing former Vice President Mike Pence to speak on campus about “taking a stand for America’s founding.” That would-be journalists would thus advocate a denial of First Amendment rights is a real shock to the conscience and a worrying sign about the professionalism of the next generation of journalists.
No would-be journalist who rejects the founding First Amendment principles — the rights to free speech, free religious exercise, and, of course, a free press — should ever be rewarded with a job in the media of a free society. And in general, society will be better off when those seeking to exercise tyranny and corrupt the integrity of the legal and journalistic professions graduate only to find that many doors are closed to them.