Conservative group parks billboard by North Jersey home after law students heckle judge
A conservative free speech group that targets mainstream media brought billboard-sized digital screens into a residential neighborhood in Englewood Cliffs this week, plastered with the name of a Stanford University law school student who lives there, after members of his campus organization heckled a conservative federal judge at a speaking event.
The group's truck, with bright blue digital billboards, stood parked outside the purported residence of law student Mohit Mookim on Tuesday and Wednesday during the university’s spring break, showing text messages in white and yellow letters that said, “A member of Mohit Mookim’s group shouted 'I hope your daughters get raped.'”
The comment was allegedly made when members of the progressive Stanford chapter of the National Lawyers Guild heckled Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan at a March 9 event on the Stanford Law School campus. After a few attempts at reasoning with the shouting law students, the judge argued back, and according to some reports, called one of them an “idiot.”
Duncan was appointed in 2017 by President Donald Trump to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Duncan is known for his opposition to same-sex marriage and reproductive rights, and refused on one occasion to grant a transgender litigant’s request to be addressed as “she.” He was invited to speak on campus by students in Stanford’s conservative Federalist Society.
Mookim, who did not respond to an email seeking comment, is a JD candidate at Stanford Law and former researcher at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, with an interest in social justice and “transferring power to poor and BIPOC communities,” according to the website of the National Center for Family Philanthropy. It is not known if Mookim personally participated in disrupting Duncan's speech.
Mobile billboard truck
The mobile billboard truck is a favorite tactic of Accuracy In Media, a conservative, self-described free speech watchdog outfit that targets the news media. Earlier this year the group sent billboard trucks to the homes of two Berkeley Law School students who belong to campus groups that had signed a bylaw banning speakers who support “Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine,” according to AIM.
Accuracy in Media's website also lists instances of public schools “tricking” parents into teaching kids about controversial issues like critical race theory, a focus of right wing groups.
The group also sent billboard trucks to three other Stanford students' homes in New York, Virginia and Maryland this week who belong to the Stanford chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said Adam Guillette, Accuracy in Media's president. Exposing the students to their friends and neighbors was his goal, said Guillette, but the trucks showed up also because they “doubled down rather than apologizing for their actions.”
Accuracy in Media has a history of supporting anti-LGBTQ positions and conspiracy theories, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Media Matters, two progressive watchdog groups. A former director, Cliff Kincaid, was blatant about his dislike for gays and lesbians and dismissed global warming, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Law school students at Duncan's March 9 speech began hooting, interrupting, and questioning the judge about his positions on trans people and morality almost as soon as he began to speak. The judge, continuing with his prepared comments, appeared to ignore their questions. The rest of the time, he was mostly drowned out. He left the event without completing his remarks, escorted, according to reports, by federal marshals.
Associate Dean Tirien Steinbach tried to intervene at one point, but told Duncan that his court decisions have caused “harm” and she was ” uncomfortable” addressing the crowd over issues that “tear at the fabric” of the student community.
Stanford sent a formal letter of apology to Duncan and placed Steinbach, who heads the law school's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, on paid leave. The actions resulted in further campus protests.
Last week, the dean of the law school, Jenny Martinez, sent students a widely-praised 10-page letter calling on students to respect civil discourse as future lawyers. She stood by her decisions to apologize to Duncan and put Dean Steinbach on leave. She also reminded students that the hecklers broke Stanford policy, which allows protests but not disruption of “peaceful assembly.”
“I want to set expectations clearly going forward: our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is not going to take the form of having the school administration announce institutional positions on a wide range of current social and political issues, make frequent institutional statements about current news events, or exclude or condemn speakers who hold views on social and political issues with whom some or even many in our community disagree,” Martinez said in her letter.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Billboard parked at North Jersey home after law students heckle judge