Yale Law School students on Monday, Sept. 24, protest the potential confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Diego Radzinschi.

 

The discord at Yale Law School over alum Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court ratcheted up Monday when hundreds of students protested at a campus sit-in Monday.

At the same time,  more than 100 others traveled to Washington, D.C., to call on the Senate to oppose his confirmation and for fair and respectful treatment of Christine Blasey Ford when it hears her testimony, currently scheduled for Thursday.

The dual actions were organized by a group called Yale Law Students Demanding Better. Organizer Veronica Guerrero said that more than half of the elite law school’s 600 students were involved in some way, and that they recognize the weight that the Yale Law name carries in legal and political circles.

“Anita Hill is a Yale Law School alum. Clarence Thomas is a Yale Law School alum,” she said Monday morning as she waited with fellow students outside the office of Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse in hopes of speaking with him and other Republican lawmakers. “It’s not lost on us that our law school is a part of a broader power structure where a small group of wealthy and well-connected have the power to shape the law, the legal community, and its culture. We’re here to demand that the law does not marginalize groups that are already marginalized in broader society.”

The coordinated protests were also intended to send a strong message that Yale Law School does not support Kavanaugh’s nomination, she added. Relatively little previous action had created the impression that the law school stands behind Kavanaugh, Guerrero said, but the fact that hundreds either left classes for the sit-in or traveled to Washington signals otherwise.

Guerrero also pointed to a letter that nearly 50 Yale law faculty sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 21 calling on it to delay a confirmation vote and fully investigation Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school party in the early 1980s. That letter came before news broke Sunday that a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, alleged Kavanaugh thrust his penis into her face while at a beer-soaked party at Yale in the 1983 or 1984, when both were undergraduates there. (Several prominent Yale law professors wrote earlier op-eds in support of Kavanaugh.)

Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken said in a statement Monday that the allegations against Kavanaugh have caused “deep concern” at the school.

“Students have worked with the Law School administration and faculty so that the community can come together as a whole to discuss this important moment in our country’s history,” she wrote. “As dean, I cannot take a position on the nomination, but I am so proud of the work our community is doing to engage with these issues, and I stand with them in supporting the importance of fair process, the rule of law, and the integrity of the legal system.”

The Yale law students in Washington began Monday on the steps of the Supreme Court, where they heard testimony from survivors of sexual assault. Next, they moved to Senate offices in hopes of speaking to lawmakers and airing their concerns.

“Our message is that we’re here to support Dr. Ford and Debbie Ramirez, who have the right to be heard,” Guerrero said. “We think it’s important that survivors or sexual assault and harassment are heard, particularly the most vulnerable members of our population.”

Not only is Kavanaugh an alum of the law school, but he frequently hires judicial clerks from there. Professor Amy Chua, who has publicly supported Kavanaugh, allegedly counseled female students that the judge prefers conventionally attractive female clerks. Chua on Sept. 22 issued a statements denying that she suggested female students look a certain way for interviews with Kavanaugh.