Why this conservative federal appeals judge will no longer hire clerks from Yale Law School

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Judge James Ho

Conservative Judge James C. Ho has said he will no longer hire law clerks from Yale Law School. Photo from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans.

Judge James C. Ho of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans said last week he will no longer hire law clerks from Yale Law School because the university “not only tolerates” the cancellation of conservative views but also “actively practices it.”

Ho made his Sept. 29 announcement while criticizing cancel culture in higher education at the Kentucky Chapters Conference of the Federalist Society.

The National Review was first with the news. Original Jurisdiction, Law.com, Reuters, Bloomberg Law, Above the Law and the Volokh Conspiracy also have coverage.

Ho referred to a couple of incidents in which Yale Law students disrupted conservative speakers, including the March appearance of the general counsel of the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom.

He also mentioned an incident last year in which Yale Law tried to get a law student to apologize for sending an invitation to a “trap house” Constitution Day bash, hosted in conjunction with the Federalist Society. The phrase trap house was once associated with inner city crack dens but has come to mean a party place. The student promised to serve Popeye’s chicken and “American-themed snacks” such as apple pie.

“It turns out that, when elite law schools like Yale teach their students that there are no consequences to their intolerance and illiberalism,” Ho said, “the message sticks with them.”

“Yale presents itself as the best, most elite institution of legal education. Yet it’s the worst when it comes to legal cancellation,” he said.

Ho said his decision to boycott the school’s clerks will apply to students who enroll after he made his comments because students already at the school don’t have notice of his decision.

Ho said his intent wasn’t “to cancel Yale.” Rather, he wants Yale “to stop canceling people like me,” he said.

Critics told Law.com that Ho’s decision to stop hiring Yale Law grads could create recusal problems when Yale Law grads represent parties in his court, and that Ho is canceling Yale, despite criticizing cancel culture.

According to Original Jurisdiction, Ho is the first judge to announce that he won’t hire any Yale Law grads.

“But I do know that other judges have already quietly adopted such a policy—and even privately encouraged others to join them,” wrote David Lat, founder and writer at Original Jurisdiction.

Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, said he is “reliably informed” that the admissions office at Harvard Law School is trying to identify conservative applicants and then to persuade them to choose Harvard over Yale.

Blackman sees Ho’s decision in terms of a judgment about the kind of conservative student who would choose Yale Law, despite a reputation for intolerance.

Those students would be putting their desire for prestige above a commitment to values such as free speech and academic openness. And conservative judges could see that decision as a failure of moral character, Blackman said.

Above the Law, however, sees Ho’s decision as an effort to advance his career.

“James Ho wants to be sure he’s grabbing every possible headline that might cross Trump’s peripheral vision if he wins in 2024,” the blog said.

At Original Jurisdiction, Lat suggested that Yale could try to change Ho’s mind by taking action to show tolerance, such as giving a “civil reception” to the Alliance Defending Freedom official who was shouted down. He also suggested that Yale “get rid of” administrators associated with intolerance, and that it could teach new students at orientation about free speech and intellectual diversity.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “After 5th Circuit judge boycotts Yale Law grads, his conservative colleague hangs out welcome sign”

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