Campus Free Speech

Stanford Law Dean: 'I Would Never Have Approved' Investigating a Student for Mocking the Federalist Society

"Stanford Law School is strongly committed to free speech," says Dean Jenny S. Martinez, who wants to "ensure that something like this does not happen again."

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Stanford Law School Dean Jenny S. Martinez says she did not hear about the university's two-month investigation of third-year student Nicholas Wallace's satirical flyer mocking the Federalist Society until June 1. That was the same day the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent the university's Office of Community Standards a letter on Wallace's behalf, noting that the investigation, which put his diploma on hold two weeks before he was scheduled to graduate, violated Stanford's commitment to freedom of expression.

"I would never have approved such a thing," Martinez said in an email to the "Stanford Law Community" that Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern posted on Twitter. "Stanford Law School is strongly committed to free speech, is concerned about actions and climate that have the potential to chill speech, and has shared those concerns with the university."

An officer of the Stanford Federalist Society filed a complaint against Wallace on March 27, accusing him of violating the university's code of conduct, known as the "Fundamental Standard," by emailing a facetious flyer to fellow students on January 25. The flyer implicitly criticized the Federalist Society's ties to lawyers who participated in former President Donald Trump's dogged campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election. It described a made-up Federalist Society event scheduled for January 6, the day that Trump supporters invaded the Capitol in a vain attempt to stop Joe Biden from taking office. The theme: "The Originalist Case for Insurrection." The speakers: Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), who played a leading role in the challenges to Biden's electoral votes on January 6, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed a quixotic lawsuit seeking to overturn Biden's victory and addressed Trump's supporters at the "Save America" rally that preceded the riot.

Although such political satire is clearly protected by the First Amendment, the complaint against Wallace alleged that he had "defamed" the Stanford Federalist Society, its officers, Hawley, and Paxton. University officials took that plainly erroneous claim seriously, notifying Wallace on May 27 that his diploma was on hold pending the outcome of their investigation. They announced that they had removed the hold on June 2, after the case attracted national attention and provoked the letter from FIRE.*

"When I became aware of this particular situation," Martinez wrote, "I strongly urged the University to consider whether it needs procedures that more quickly resolve whether constitutionally protected speech is involved in a Fundamental Standard complaint." She added that the university should reconsider "the policies and procedures that led to their placing a graduation hold on this student on the eve of final exams."

As I noted yesterday, it is hard to understand why it took so long for the university's Office of Community Standards to decide that Wallace's joke was constitutionally protected. The case law on that point is clear, and the office has publicly acknowledged that Fundamental Standard complaints can conflict with Stanford's avowed commitment to free expression as well as a California law that bars disciplinary action against private university students for speech protected by the First Amendment.

"We followed our normal procedures and conducted a factual inquiry," the university said on Wednesday. "Given that this complaint raised issues of protected speech, we also consulted with legal counsel after we obtained the relevant facts. In cases where the complaint is filed in proximity to graduation, our normal procedure includes placing a graduation diploma hold on the respondent."

Although Stanford said "the complaint was resolved as expeditiously as possible," that is plainly not true. The "relevant facts"—the contents of Wallace's satirical flyer—could have been "obtained" readily, and the university's "legal counsel" should have immediately recognized that Wallace's faux announcement was not defamatory and that "case law supports that the email is protected speech," as the university ultimately decided after it received withering criticism for jeopardizing Wallace's career based on the Stanford Federalist Society's fallacious complaint.

"I think it is imperative that we take action to ensure that something like this does not happen again," Martinez said. She noted that the university has said it will "continue to review policies and practices" related to Fundamental Standard complaints that implicate freedom of speech. It said it also is "reviewing procedures for placing holds on student accounts in judicial cases in close proximity to graduation to ensure that holds are limited to cases for which the outcome could be serious enough to affect the timing of degree conferral."

[*CORRECTION: This post originally gave the wrong date for the university's reversal.]

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  1. Maybe the Federalist Society would have felt better about her code of conduct if she had broken into the law school and shat on the floor like its army of rubes did at the US capitol, at essentially their behest.

    1. Steaming pile of lefty shit still can’t spell “protesters”.

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        3. This steaming pile of lefty shit calls Tony “right”
          We knew you’re stupid; you just keep lowering the bar.

        4. No, we mean lefty pile of shit.

        5. No, we mean leftist-leaning. stinking-pinko pile of shit.

          1. You don’t even know what you hate.

    2. Except no one did that.

      BLM and Antifa ‘protestors’ burned parts of cities down last summer.

      1. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    3. “Maybe the Federalist Society would have felt better about her code of conduct if she had broken into the law school and shat on the floor like its army of rubes did at the US capitol, at essentially their behest.”

      And this was the basis of the Federalist Society’s complaint — that it was NOT protected parody BECAUSE people reading it could believe it to be true — as Tony *did*…

  2. >>Stanford Law School is strongly committed to free speech

    somebody is out of touch.

    1. Guess we’ll find out when someone Stanford Law APPROVES OF is targeted for “humor”.

  3. Any administrator unaware of a two month long investigation in her area of responsibility is attending too many diversity seminars.

    1. It can also mean the administration was out of control. Doing stuff assembling star committees behind the deans back.

  4. I wish these Federalist Society chapter officers from Stanford well as they prepare for careers with the Washington Generals.

    1. ^couldn’t dunk the ball it they lowered the basket^

    2. Rev graduated from Bumfuck School of Law and Prayer.

  5. Stanford Law Dean: ‘I Would Never Have Approved’ Investigating a Student for Mocking the Federalist Society

    But it still happened. So . . . it looks like you’re not part of the approvals process for these actions – so who give a fuck what you would have not approved?

    “I strongly urged the University . . .

    You sent a letter? That’s it? I’m sure they’ll give your strongly worded letter the consideration it deserves.

    1. Did she not hear about a two month investigation of one of her students?

      What is she doing with her time that she’s so insulated that this could be kept from her.

      Instead of strongly worded letters, she should be examining her staff and herself and finding out how (and why) she was kept out of the loop.

      Otherwise she needs to move on to another job, at a lower supervisory level.

      1. I have a strong suspicion that a dean is no longer the administrator in charge of a department. More of a title than a position. The person that goes to department soirees to mingle with the professors and others of the hoi polloi.

        1. You probably don’t actually mean “hoi polloi.”

  6. Was she looking the other way when this happened? On vacation?

  7. Stanford Law Dean: ‘I Would Never Have Approved’ Investigating a Student for Mocking the Federalist Society

    And I believe this completely.

    Also feel free to mock Republicans, conservatives, Donald Trump, white men, capitalism, the United States and Western Civilization. Just be sure your mockery doesn’t stray into hate speech by mocking those not on the approved list.

  8. “I think it is imperative that we take action to ensure that something like this does not happen again issues which totally conform to my worldview continue to receive my full support”

    I don’t know why Sullum is making such a big deal of a woke law school Dean supporting a woke student.

    1. Do we actually know the student was woke? Mocking those who excuse the insurrectionist is an activity enjoyed across the spectrum. One doesn’t need to be woke to recognize a credulous rube deserving of mockery.

      1. Ya got me. I was playing the odds. 😉

        The Dean though…definitely Woke.

  9. She was one of many law school deans who – on January 12 – signed a statement expressing OUTRAGE about the unparalleled crimes against humanity committed on January 6, abetted by evil right-wing lawyers.*

    https://law.yale.edu/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/law_deans_joint_statement_1.12.21_final.pdf

    *Note: I am paraphrasing their views in an exaggerated and satirical manner, thus I’m protected by the 1st Amendment

  10. “This is how we treat students who *agree* with us. So decide for yourself if you want to risk *disagreeing* with us.”

  11. So where is the ,ine between satire and libel?

  12. If the Dean does not know about their own school withholding an earned degree from a student then there needs to be some firings happening.

  13. “Stanford Law School is strongly committed to free speech, is concerned about actions and climate that have the potential to chill speech, and has shared those concerns with the university.”

    I hate comments like this. Companies always say this, that they are committed to a particular policy that they just got caught red handed violating. Commonly they keep violating that policy after that statement is made.

  14. I think this seems to be a classic case of the wokesters getting caught in their own censorship nets. Of course they don’t want lefty law students to get hassled for expressing in crude form what their own dean hinted at more diplomatically and coyly. But their rain of justice falls, it seems, on the woke and the unwoke. No wonder they’re outraged!

  15. So let me get this straight. A 3-Y law school student filed this complaint, and this student who took boatloads of law courses over three years didn’t know it was protected speech? What?!

    If that is the case, I worry about our future Stanford lawyers.

    Personally, I thought the flyer was satire, but done in extremely poor taste. And not even executed particularly well, when you get right down to it. That to me is just exceptionally bad judgment.

    If that is the case, I worry about our future Stanford lawyers.

    1. Seems like they put the wrong student’s degree on hold then.

      1. Maybe the school is the problem? 🙂

    2. Or the Federalist Society student intended to put t h e administration in a bind by enforcing their rules for aground they do not approve of, or set a precedent for dismissing the complaint out of hand. I don’t know if that is correct, but it might be possible.

  16. I would love to hear someone ask Dean Martinez – what if the student instead satirized BLM, or the NAACP? Would that change her answer? That would put her in an uncomfortable position.

    After all, this is the same Stanford that accepted a student who wrote nothing but “black lives matter” on his college essay.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/college/2017/04/04/this-teen-wrote-blacklivesmatter-over-and-over-on-his-stanford-application-and-got-in/37430957/

    1. She has to say she’d treat them equally. The key is to actually satirize those packs of retards and watch them squirm.

    2. Tyron Woodley said that “Black Lives Matter” during his pre fight news conference again and again….had nothing to do with his fight where he got put into retirement by Colby “MAGA” Covington..which was ironic as hell.

  17. “Stanford Law Dean, Lies”

    FTFY

  18. January 6, the day that Trump supporters invaded the Capitol in a vain attempt to stop Joe Biden from taking office.

    What planet are YOU inhabiting these days? Trum supporters did NOT invade” their own pubilc building, they calmly and peacefully entered when invited by Cap Cops, and did little to no destruction. NONE were amed. CaoCops moved barricades and stood calmly by as the PEOPLE entered their own building, freely alloed to enter by the police. Further there is ample evidence that disruptors had been staging and planning for two days in advance, placing pipe bombs, staging riot “supplies”, organising the event.

    And none of this even begins to address the rampant and documented vote fraud that led directly and proximally to the seating of Joe Biden as president.

    Look in to the investigation which is ongling in Maricipa County arizone…..

  19. Of course she wouldn’t.

    Bets on whether she’d investigate a student mocking BLM or Diversity – Inclusion – Equity?

    1. Are any of you not racist cunts?

  20. Perhaps you should take a page out of Yale who invited a Dr. Khilanani a forensic psych (what the heck is that) to deliver a speech on “the problem of the white mind” who during the talk fantastized about killing “white” folks…no problem with that. The irony is judging by her looks and and name she comes from the Indo-European “race” ..in other words she is “white” but I guess the whole thing of the “POC” bull is to marginalize and demonize a “group” which everyone in the world can claim they are not a part of…I guess “white” today is any American of European background who is not jewish….but hey Yale can do what they want to sterotype and spread hate against the Irish, Italian and so on…it is all good dog..

  21. Make so much sense but should education be held responsible!!!!
    http://www.computerscrapchamps.com

  22. Purporting to treat this like a legal issue? Have some FFT.

    Alerting the public to controversy reaps attention and gives time to consider whether only legal issues pertain to nature of challenge at hand. Any campus deserves its own news, and students campus-wide (e’en yonder) may benefit by having local engagement, ostensibly in a friendly learning and debate environment.

    Such matters can oft be considered relatively leisurely and sometimes such issues may matter deeply to many.

    I just want to point out that swift legal action, while certainly the very metre of a right to a fair and speedy trial, is not necessarily always on target with the spirit of the academy.

  23. The Federalist Society members who complained should have their diplomas placed on hold while they retake the class on the Bill of Rights.

  24. I like the federalist society, but like everyone else in this modern world, they need a thicker skin, and anyhow the University is really the one at fault for failing to manage the situation in a reasonable fashion. Stanford chose to punish the accused because it was easier, and besides that guy was stirring up trouble! The Law Dean’s statement that she wasn’t aware of the situation was obviously a lie. The University finally realized they were in a legally worse position by caving into the whiners. So they switched their opinion. It made me laugh to read “As I noted yesterday, it is hard to understand why it took so long for the university’s Office of Community Standards to decide that Wallace’s joke was constitutionally protected“ Duh. The University got caught fucking up, so now they act like they were never doing what they did, which was caving into a complaint and punishing the student using free speech because it made their job more difficult.

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