Conservative US judges boycott Columbia grads over campus Gaza protests

By Nate Raymond and Karen Sloan

(Reuters) – A group of 13 conservative U.S. federal judges said on Monday that they would not hire law students or undergraduates from Columbia University in response to its handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

The judges, all appointees of former U.S. President Donald Trump, called the Manhattan campus an “incubator of bigotry” in a Monday letter to Columbia President Minouche Shafik and Law Dean Gillian Lester.

“Both professors and administrators are on the front lines of the campus disruptions, encouraging the virulent spread of antisemitism and bigotry,” the letter said.

Spokespeople for Columbia University and Columbia Law School did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Columbia on Monday canceled its main graduation ceremony due to the ongoing protests.

Federal judges hire law grads annually for year-long clerkships that can lead to prestigious and high-paying legal jobs. The boycott will apply to students who enter Columbia this fall, the judges wrote.

The letter called for “serious consequences” for students and faculty who participated in campus disruptions and for the enforcement of free speech rules.

Protests against the war in Gaza have spread to dozens of U.S. universities. Demonstrators maintained an encampment on Columbia’s main campus for weeks before some temporarily occupied a campus building last week. New York City police cleared out the building and arrested more than 100 people.

The judges who signed Monday’s letter were all appointed by Trump, who has praised the New York Police Department’s response to the protesters, calling them “raging lunatics and Hamas sympathizers.”

Two-thirds of the signatories are based in Texas, including Matthew Kacsmaryk, who gained national attention last year by suspending approval of the abortion pill mifepristone in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two of the lead signers, U.S. Circuit Judges James Ho of the 5th Circuit and Elizabeth Branch of the 11th Circuit, had previously announced boycotts of clerks from Yale and Stanford, citing disruptions of conservative speakers on campus.

The 13 judges boycotting Columbia represent a small slice of the nation’s nearly 900 federal judges.

(Reporting by Karen Sloan; Editing by David Bario and Deepa Babington)