Too Right to Write? Leading Law Reviews Accused of Blackballing Conservative Student

There is a disturbing article out this week at the independent student newspaper at the University of Chicago, The Chicago Thinker. The article by Ben Ogilvie addresses growing allegations of ideological prejudice at law reviews that has effectively blackballed conservative students from the prestigious journals. The three top journals cited are Columbia (#8), Northwestern (#10), and Stanford (#1). For full disclosure, I graduated from both University of Chicago and Northwestern University. While at Northwestern, I served as a Chief Articles Editor and the Symposium Editor handling the acceptance and production of all faculty publications. (One of the first pieces that I solicited was by a young academic named Cornell West, his first law review article).

Law review positions are arguably the most sought-after distinctions in law school and are considered a critical, if not essential, qualification for prestigious federal clerkships.

For years, there have been complaints that law reviews have actively discriminated against conservative writers in favor of far left academics. The denial of such publishing opportunities is part of a rising viewpoint intolerance on campuses. As we have previously discussed, faculties have purged most conservatives and libertarians from their ranks. As conservative faculty have retired or resigned, they have been replaced by largely liberal candidates. Many faculties have only a few conservatives or Republicans left. I have seen extraordinarily talented conservative academics who have faced closed doors across the country in seeking appointments. They are often forced to go into private practice or take positions at lower-ranked schools. Those who secure positions often complain that they face hostile treatment if they object to DEI and other policies on ideological grounds.

If young professors are open about their ideology and somehow secure an academic position, they then face difficulties getting published. Indeed, there have been calls for new journals to give the dwindling number of conservative faculty some outlet for their scholarship. Publications are needed for tenure and advancement. The hostile reception at top journals makes it very difficult for young libertarian or conservative faculty to advance.

The Chicago Thinker details how law reviews have added diversity statements and background reviews as part of their selection process.

“These statements are completely open-ended, but they are still generally assigned a number grade—as if “diversity” were somehow quantifiable. The vagueness and unquantifiable nature of “diversity” in real life, however, creates opportunities for abuse. For instance, the managers of the Columbia Law Review allegedly use applicants’ diversity statements to ferret out students who are members of the Federalist Society (FedSoc), a conservative legal organization widely hated by liberals for, among other things, its role in overturning Roe v. Wade.”

The newspaper documents how Federalist Society members appear the most targeted. Top students who went on to secure leading clerkships were allegedly blocked from positions on the law reviews.

The newspaper also accused journals like the Columbia Law Review of practicing racial discrimination by specifying race as a criteria or factor in admission. It is also common for journals to ask authors to identify their race and sexual identity to give greater opportunities to minority authors. There is a common view that the best chance for publication comes with articles alleging systemic racism or attacking core values like free speech. At the same time, it is rare to see articles espousing textualist interpretations or challenging diversity rationales. Indeed, we have seen authors denied publication even after acceptance when their articles challenged such viewpoints.

The reduction of conservative student editors not only means that fewer conservative student notes are published, but faculty publications are selected by a largely liberal editorial staff.

This bias in publications is further magnified when students seek faculty review of submissions. With few conservatives or moderates left on many faculties, conservative authors can expect to be spiked or damned with faint praise from such faculty reviews. Indeed, even faculty members inclined to recommend a conservative submission may fear personal and professional consequences in being associated with a controversial conservative or libertarian publication.

It is hardly surprising to see the same intolerance on law reviews that have been manifested on campuses for years. The bias in selection of these positions not only impacts the diversity of opinion in leading journals but sharply limits the advancement of both law students and young law faculty. Law reviews have become part of the academic echo chamber where viewpoints range generally from the left to the far left. With most faculty and most publications echoing these viewpoints, it forces even moderate faculty to the perceived extremes of intellectual discussions.

One can argue that correlation does not mean causation in the lack of Federalist Society members or openly conservative students. The process of journal selections remains somewhat opaque and it is hard to analyze data that is not released by these schools.  Yet, these are long-standing objections to the overwhelming ideological bent of journals.

Ironically, the most obvious explanation is that there are relatively few conservative or libertarian faculty today, so it is understandable that most publications will reflect the liberal makeup of most faculties. It becomes a circular, chicken-or-the-egg debate. In truth, the problem is the coalescing of all of these factors that have been building for years.

I loved my time at Northwestern University Law Review. It was one of the most intellectually rewarding chapters in my education. We even implemented a total blind read system to remove any information about the author, their positions, or their status. We sought to judge works entirely on their merits and selected pieces from across the ideological spectrum. We also had a faculty that was remarkably diverse and tolerant.

The loss of that vibrant intellectual environment remains one of the saddest developments of my lifetime. I have watched my profession become intolerant and orthodox in every aspect of academia. We reached a tipping point a couple decades ago where ideological rigidity seemed to take hold of our schools as professors sought to replicate their own values in hiring, promotion, and administrative decisions. It is not surprising that our student journals reflect the same bias and intolerance.

There is little evidence that the controlling majority of law faculties will change this culture of intolerance. While that culture denies the very core of our intellectual mission, it serves to support the viewpoints (and publication opportunities) of most faculty members. It is not their problem.


179 thoughts on “Too Right to Write? Leading Law Reviews Accused of Blackballing Conservative Student”

  1. Darren,

    This is getting absurd.
    I just attempted to reply to a post that while full of error was completely civil.

    But could not reply.

    The post I tried to respond to did not violate any civility standard – aside from being Wrong.
    That post was a reply to another post that also did not violate any civility standard.

    I am increasingly inclinded to agree with some of those on the left claiming they are being politically censored on

    While I understand the technical issues you have described – and I know that deleting an actually uncivil posts will delete the entire tree of replies even if those were perfectly civil.

    This is still happening far too frequently and in instances where the post I am replying to is civil, and often the post preceding that is.

    All of us – regardless of ideology must Trust that what censorship takes place at is following the standards you established.

    And we must do so at a time when it is CLEAR that in other contexts those on the left have ignored any standards at all when they had the power to censor.

    Trust is something that is deeply lacking today.

    Whatever the standards for Civility are being used I would hope that the level of incivility necescary to get censored is very high – especially since the consequences of censoring an incivil post ultimately mean taking down lots of perfectly civil replies.

    Frankly the frequency with which I am unable to reply to posts that I find egregiously wrong, but still legitimate free speech is greatly troubling me.

    One of the massive problems that we are seeing today is the willingness of so many to use the power of government to disempower those they disagree with.

    1. Comments made by previously banned users are deleted regardless of the content of their posts.

      1. Darren, Thanks for the explanation. If you don’t mind, how does a banned user have the ability to make comments in the first place. Also, how do you know the commenter is a banned user if they disguise their name/email in some way?

        1. Darren, There was a comment just below mine that quite critical of you and JT. Could you please explain why it was deleted — although critical it didn’t seem to violate the civility policy. Thanks.

          1. As I stated before, comments made by users who had their commenting privileges revoked are deleted regardless of the content of that comment.

            1. Darren, Please consider placing an an appropriate note when and where you delete a comment. For example, (1) “A comment was deleted here [and responses to it] because the commenter was a banned user”. (2) “A comment [and responses to it] was deleted here because it violated the civility policy.”, Thanks.

              1. Concerned, the banned individual posts frequently. It can be ~30 comments in a day. Why should you impose on the blog manager and increase his workload?

                The banned individual is engaging in harassment of the blog while enjoying every minute of it. He is no different than one that harasses women, children, adults, etc., on the street with all sorts of antics. Why aren’t you questioning his motivations and asking him to stop?

        2. Concerned Citizen,
          A sysadmin has a number of “tricks” at their disposal to weed out a banned user.

      2. And you are able to identify exactly which previously banned poster is now posting as anonymous ?


        I do not know all the details.

        But increasingly I am of the view that is treating posters on the left differently.

        I am NOT trying to defend the SUBSTANCE of their posts. I think that reqardless of your background and education you have to be a moron to accept leftist ideology.

        Frankly, I think that even the late 20th century liberalism of those like Turley and Derschowitz is itself willfully blind to reality.
        I do not think that you can be a civil libertarian, an advocate of individual rights without grasping that there are very very few problems that government does not make worse. I do not think you can value individual rights without being FAR MORE skeptical of govenrment that liberals like Turley have been in the past.

        But I do not hink that being wrong about somethings or even everything is a basis for censorship on a political or legal blog.

        Nor BTW am I all that happy about those on the right. It is just that TODAY conservatives and republicans are overall more libertarain than those on the left. Just as nations form allies with other nations that are not all that attractive, in order to further national interests, I am less inclind to challenge those ont he right here MOST of the time, because TODAY they are less dangerous.

        But actual free speech REQUIRES allowing those who are wrong, and dangerous to speak.

        Regardless, I am constantly finding that attempts to reply to posts that are wrong, stupid, and laced with insults, are blocked.

        The claim that deleting an offensive post deletes all those below – works when the post I am responding to is NOT a top level post.

        The claim that I can not reply because the post was deleted AFTER it was emailed to me and before I replied – works – when the past itself is offensive enough to be banned.

        I reply to LOSTS of posts that I would love to pound the facts through the thick skull of the poster – thetorically (but in my fantasiess…)

        But not posts I would ban.

        I do not look at as many posts as you – so maybe I am not seeing the offensive posts that you are that are getting people banned, But given that posts are getting sent out by email BEFORE they are deleted – I should think I should see SOME that obviously should be banned.

        BTW I would absolutely support your banning personal attacks – as opposed to disagreements about the fact and the law targeted at Turley. It is after all HIS blog. I do not think that running a blog entitles the world to insult you.

        But I do not think that posters should be banned for insulting other posters – atleast not unless it is really over the top.
        I have scathingly berated other posters here – as part of a solid factual take down. Aside from actually making arguments in addition to lobbing insults, my posts are not multiple levels less offensive than those that appear to be getting taken down.

        Finally, you are taking down top level anonymous posts that are not offensive enough on their own to ban. Unless you are tracking IP’s or something – which I doubt, I am not sure these are really previously banned posters.

        Regardless. it also sounds to me like you are getting sucked into a game of whack-a-mole with posters that are occasionally offensive.

        If you have banned someone – I have no problem with their coming back under a different pseudonym so long as they do not offend again.
        And I especially have a problem banning anonymous posts.

        When one posts anonymously they shed all the credibility that comes with a real name or even a pseudonym.

        THAT is the price for anonymity – a loss of credibility.

        I have far more respect overall for those posters I disagree with who consistently respond under some identity.

        And frankly I get annoyed at the other posters here that try to figure out what different names someone has posted under.
        If you post under multiple names or anonymously – you do so at the expense of any reputation and respect you might earn.

        In conclusion – I am NOT reassured.

        I do not wish to see become the reverse of twitter before Musk censoring those on the left instead of the right.

        I respond to alot of left wing nut posts. But often the best punishment for the stupidty of the left is for their stupidity to be out their for all to see – no censurship and no comment required.

    2. John, I don’t like censorship either, but I believe, in this case, the individual was repeatedly warned and finally banned permanently. So what. That his posts, though stupid, wrong, and ignorant, are not uncivil? He doesn’t have the privilege to post. That is no different from banning a golfer from the club even though, at present, he is civil.

      The error is that he is permitted to post by email when there is a solution, requiring that all responses contain a name and a unique icon. Those lacking such identifying features should be denied all posting abilities. I believe that would clean up the blog and make everyone more respectful to one another.

      1. Uh, no.
        Do you see Dennis, Natasha, Sammy, Fishwings getting banned?
        They are most certainly not Trump supporters.

        ATS has been banned for repeated violations after being repeatedly warned.

        This is not the so-called sealed bubble you claim it to be.

      2. “Let’s get serious here, this isn’t about ‘civility’”

        It is all about civility. Your political ideas and ignorance had nothing to do with being banned. You were warned repeatedly. You should never reappear on the blog, but you are an exhibitionist who likes to shock people with foul language, lies, and stupidity.

        “This censorship is really about preserving the blog as a safe space for Trumpers”

        You are brain-dead. Everyone can see this is another of your lies. People criticize Trump, and for no reason Turley, but they aren’t banned. You were. Your foul mouth was. Some of your non-political lies IMO should have been. You are a jerk under this new name and any of your prior ones.

        “George is allowed to write any wackadoodle thought”

        I don’t think George is foul-mouthed. Mostly he quotes from legitimate historical sources. You don’t realize that because you are an ignorant fool.

        Of course, your posting under Anonymous could be the other fool. Sometimes it gets hard to differentiate the same stupidity from another ignorant blogger. It doesn’t matter because foul-mouthed idiots who wish to mimic one another’s idiocy deserve to be linked together and discarded.

  2. Jonathan: Now there is one person who is going to be held “accountable” and it’s not Gov. Hobbs. It’s, as you guessed, Donald J. Trump. His lawyers and Jack Smith’ team were in front Judge Chutkan yesterday to argue about the limits of the government’s proposed protective order to keep DJT from trying to use discovery information, like witness interviews, to intimidate witnesses and try to taint the jury pool.

    Chutkan is a law and order judge and laid down the law to DJT. She said: “I intend to ensure an orderly administration of justice in this case as I would with any other case. Even arguably ambiguous statements from parties [DJT] or their counsel—can threaten the process. In addition, the more a party [DJT] makes inflammatory statements about this case which could taint the jury pool…I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings and the greater the urgency will be that we proceed to trial quickly…”.

    Two take takeaways from Chutkans statements at the hearing. First, DJT is skating on thin ice. If he continues to make threats against prosecutors and witnesses, like Mike Pence who will be testifying against DJT at trial, Chutkan may revoke his release and put him in pre-trial detention. Second, in another pretrial motion Jack Smith has called for a trial on Jan. 2, 2024. DJT’s lawyers want to put off the trial until after the 2024 election. Chutkan is signaling she is probably going to set the trial date in either January or February. Why? Because it is unlikely DJT will stop his inflammatory statements and witness intimidation and Chutkan doesn’t want DJT to try to taint the jury pool.

    Turns out all of Trump’s threats against prosecutors, judges and witnesses are coming back to bite him on the back side. Had he just kept his mouth shut maybe Judge Chutkan would have entertained his lawyers request for a later trial date. Now, that’s not going to happen. Poor DJT, he is his own worse enemy!

  3. Prof. Turley, while I agree with your factual outline.

    Ultimately I am not that concerned. The most prestigious law schools, indeed the most prestigiousl schools in the country are destroying their own reputations. There are destroying their own value, their own reason for existance.

    There are plenty of Judges – federal and otherwise out there that are NOT left wing nuts. And they Will get clerks.
    If they find that prestigious schools and law reviews do not deliver competent clerks – they will look elsewhere.

    Even if you manage to get rid of all the conservative judges – which might be possible at the federal level but is impossible overall,
    all that will do is drive our legal system to failure.

    We are increasingly seeing that failure everywhere.

    The US women’s soccer team – which really should pretty much never lose, fizzled completely this year.

    That is what happens when you take the best of the best and get them to adopt this woke nonsense that destory’s their pride in themselves and their country.

    The US is far from perfect – but it is still the best country in the world – regardless of the left.
    That is NOT just the normal nationalism and patriotism speaking – every nation has things to be proud of.
    But the US is great because it is free. It will cease to be great as our freedom decreases.

    Producing the best of the best – whether in womens soccer or law reviews, federal clerks and federal judges REQUIRES freedom.

    If you destroyed the right entirely, they would still end up being reborn from the left. Because leftism DOES NOT WORK.

    The value america has historically placed on freedom – while aspirational and never living up to our ideals,
    is not merely the reason for American Excellence, but that value as expressed in America is the product of thousands of years of political, legal, philosophical, and moral evolution. Destroy it and its re-emergence is inevitable.

    Kill every conservative and libertarian on the planet – and the ideology will reemerge on its own.

    Martin Luther King said the Arc of history bends towards justice. More accurately the arc of history – evolution itself the design of the universe bends towards what works.

    Freedom Works.
    Leftism does not.

  4. Judging by the comments on this blog, TDS has another meaning: Thomas Derangement Syndrome. The Democrat slave owners are livid that an uppity black man dares to think for himself, and not kow-tow to the leftist orthodoxy they think blacks are supposed to follow. He has escaped their plantation. So they smear him, trying to destroy his reputation, as they have done from the moment President Bush nominated him to the Court.

    They are so deluded as to think he cares what they think or can ever be somehow forced off the court. No, their childish vitriol in which they obviously single him out for opprobrium because of his race, only has the opposite effect: he is as staunch a conservative today as he was his first day on the Court, and he is now the leader of the Court’s conservative bloc.

    1. Kansas Elder, he has tenure during “Good Behavior”. Congress can impeach and try him at any time.

      1. It is a liberal dream to impeach only Thomas for stuff every Justice does, and it has been so since the day he stepped foot on the Court. They are driven to selectively aim their outrage at Thomas primarily because of his race. But their dream is a pipe dream, it will never be a reality.

  5. Wow, talk about race essentialism. To the left skin tone means everything. It defines all aspects of social relations and social discourse. Sick, sick, sick. Not to mention that the Federalist Society is one of the last bastions of free thought remaining in legal academia. No wonder the left hates it so much.

  6. Jonathan: Now this a subject I know something about. I was the Editor-in-Chief of my law school’s law review. And you’re right : “Law review positions are arguably the most sought after distinctions in law school…” It’s something you never forget about your law school experience.

    But here we will have to part company. I have seen no clear evidence, nor any academic studies, that support your claim “faculties have purged most conservatives and libertarians from their ranks.” It’s one of your frequent claims without any basis in fact. In 2018 Harvard published a lengthy study entitled “The Legal Academy’s Ideological Uniformity”. The study did find that law school professors are predominantly “liberal” but offered a number of other explanations. First, conservative lawyers are less likely to pursue academic careers. There is more money in the practice of law than in teaching it. And many conservative lawyers see that as a stepping stone into politics. In many states the legislatures are dominated by conservatives–many of whom are lawyers. So while conservatives may be in a minority in law schools they are certainly well represented in state houses around the country. Second, law schools have made a conscious effort at diversifying their faculties–bringing in more women and people of color. And both categories tend to be more “liberal”. So that leaves fewer positions for conservatives.

    The Q is whether law schools should be forced to hire more “conservative” faculty? What would happen to the “diversity” programs at law schools around the country? As the Harvard study points out: “Prioritizing hiring from a group in which men [white males] outnumber women three to one without negatively affecting the gender balance of new hires would likely prove challenging”. But I guess that’s the whole point. White male conservatives don’t like “diversity” programs because they tend to lower their numbers. So they want to “purge” faculty hiring committee lists of women and minority candidates to make way for conservatives. Kind of ironic isn’t it? That conservatives would want to do exactly what you are complaining about at law schools these days.

    1. There you have it. Through the ideological prism of POC and gender. Always appearance/identity.

  7. The Professor named Cornell West in his comment.

    Here is a blurb on West.

    “Socialist professor and presidential candidate Cornel West wants “massive investments” including “free college tuition” and “Medicare for All” as part of his presidential campaign.

    Just don’t expect him to chip in on the bill.

    According to the Daily Beast, and confirmed by West, the Union Theological Seminary professor owes over half a million dollars in taxes.”


    “He appeared to deny a report from the Daily Beast that he also owes $45,000 in child support, saying the outlet was “lying about his kids.”

    Hmm such ideas of sharing seem to end at the elitist door.

  8. Universities and professional publications discriminate against dissenting research and opinions. Then, the claim is made that there is agreement among experts on an issue. That’s easy to say when the dissent can’t be heard in university classrooms, or read in publications and journals.

    Even the voice of NOAA disagreeing with wild claims gets lost in the shouting of activism.

  9. In 1987, the Chairman of the EEOC addressed a San Francisco think tank (Pacific Research Institute) founded on the advancement of free market policies. This speaker then, as does Jonathan Turley today, complained about those then prevalent liberal views of money and markets as “venal and dirty” practices harkening grubbier ends – and mocking those nobler liberal pursuits in those “idealistic professions” of journalism and legal academia where people “make their living by producing words.” But that was another era and today that speaker is Supreme Court Clarence Thomas – a judge deservedly destined for our country’s historical trash heap. And an arguably significant defender this staggeringly venal Justice is Jonathan Turley. Turley’s defense of Thomas? Process! Nowhere does Turley claim any lack of merit to the voluminous and meticulously assembled record of this Justice’s sordid intransigence. Instead, Turley protests “media bias”! Here, as with Turley’s myopic defense of Justice Thomas, his “Too Right to Write” piece smacks of the very bias he complains about and does a disservice to woefully needed conservative discourse.

    1. The EEOC and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are irrefutably unconstitutional providing bias and favor to a separate and particular segment of society, understanding that the Constitution does not differentiate and exists in equity, that is, the absence of bias and favoritism.

      Americans enjoy freedom which includes the ability to choose, favor and discriminate, understanding that society is shaped, configured and fashioned from the free choices of citizens.

      People must adapt to the outcomes of freedom, freedom does not adapt to people, dictatorship does.

      No section of the Constitution favors any individuals for any reason.

      Congress cannot favor particular individuals over others.

      Congress cannot favor employees over free enterprises.

      Americans are free to start a business or accept or reject employment.

      Enterprises are private property and only the owners have the power to “claim and exercise” dominion over private property, including the power to hire, fire, direct and pay.

      “[Private property is] that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.”

      – James Madison

    2. Another chapter in the never-ending leftwing attempt to blacken the reputation of Clarence Thomas.
      Why do they hate him? Because he dared to leave the reservation

  10. The court was preemptively proscribing that. It had nothing to do with what Trump’s counsel asked for. You would be so laughably easy to squash in court.

  11. OK, gotta get going here on other things, but I am hoping that the good professor either has time to read these comments tonight, or that Darren will pass on the COMPLIMENTS by me and others for JT’s OUTSTANDING televised comments this midday, regarding the appointment of David Weiss, and its consequences. VERY succinct and direct responses to all questions.
    That was one of the BEST interview commentary I have ever seen/heart/watched. BRAVO Professor Turley!
    Indeed, without his commentary, there are few others of his stature who can hit the nail on the head like that!

    1. I don’t think he reads the comments.

      He does read — and sometimes responds to — his email.

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