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Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?
The Stanford Law debacle and our grim legal future
“Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
That was the question that Tirien Angela Steinbach, Stanford Law School’s associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) asked U.S. circuit judge Kyle Duncan last week as she commandeered a lecture he was meant to give on campus.
In this case, the juice was that lecture — “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter” — and the squeeze was the “hurt” that Judge Duncan allegedly afflicted on marginalized students at the law school with his presence. Scores of those students showed up to heckle Judge Duncan and attempt to shut down the lecture. After a lot of disruption, Dean Steinbach arrived and took the podium, which rightly confounded Judge Duncan, who had requested an administrator to enforce the university’s free speech policies.
What Steinbach did was… not that. After announcing how “uncomfortable” she was to be at the podium, she proceeded to give a rambling address, sometimes to Duncan, sometimes to the students, in which she lambasted him for his legal work and consoled the traumatized students. You can watch it here:
What stood out to me in her impromptu remarks — besides all of the obvious absurdity — was that question: is the juice worth the squeeze? i.e. was Judge Duncan’s lecture more important than the feelings of a few incredibly fragile students?
That question is almost a perfect antithesis of American legal ethics, the most basic supposition of which is due process — i.e. the “squeeze.” We rely on a system of process-based legal rights instead of outcome-based rights, because outcomes are the substance of legal disagreement. That an apparent legal educator like Steinbach could suggest otherwise is outrageous. Imagine a criminal judge who applied this “is the juice worth the squeeze?” approach!
Is your not-guilty plea worth the trauma of the victim? Is defending yourself worth upsetting someone else? Are your rights more important than others’ feelings? Or maybe a prosecutor, who would love to ask whether it’s worth the pain of giving alleged criminals the right to legal representation.
The entire American legal system depends on the squeeze being protected — whether the opposing party thinks it’s worth it. Of course they don’t think it’s worth it, because they aren’t the ones doing the squeezing…
Today in American law schools, this fundamental idea is under attack in all sorts of ways. Rights have become subordinate to outcomes — specifically, the outcomes favored by the most radical elements of the activist left. An analogue might be the equality vs. equity paradigm. Like due process, equality is a process-based concept, whereas equity is an outcomes-based concept.
Free speech is racist. Due process is offensive. The right to counsel is offensive. Property rights perpetuate inequality. When we shift to an outcomes-based approach, it’s obvious that everything starts to fall apart. It would be a legal free-for-all. And it’s exactly where we’re headed. Because these students, under the tutelage of people like Tirien Steinbach, are the future of the American legal system. When these students are appointed to the federal bench, how do you think they’ll behave?
That is our future: the students screeching obscenities and nonsense at a federal judge are the ones who will replace him within a generation. They will pass down criminal sentences and decide major civil cases involving your rights. Get ready
Judge Duncan was subjected to a very public struggle session, but this type of bullying happens every day inside the institutions, and there aren’t cameras to capture it. Stanford’s President and the Law Dean apologized to Judge Duncan precisely because it was so public, and so damaging to Stanford’s reputation. But let’s be very clear: leaders like them abet this exact behavior inside Stanford all the time. Even if Steinbach is removed, the cancer of DEI, with all its rules and requirements, will still be ascendant at Stanford.
If anything, they are scapegoating Steinbach for the faux-pas of telling the world what Dean Martinez and President Tessier-Lavigne already know: that DEI controls the institution. In other words it was a gaffe.
When I first saw the video, I was thankful to have avoided law school, to which I was well on my way as a Stanford undergraduate. Imagine being lectured to or ruled by such unserious people — and paying a fortune for three years of the privilege!
And yet, I can’t help but wonder: if nearly all the lawyers in twenty years are as crazy as the students heckling Kyle Duncan, will I have made a mistake? I don’t know, but at the moment the conclusion I’ve reached is this: if our institutions are at war with our rights, and we desire to keep our rights, then we really have no choice but to be at war with the institutions.
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