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Last Friday night, we attended a Yale Law School alumni dinner here in Washington, at Acadiana restaurant. It was timed to coincide with the big AALS conference of law professors in DC, since so many YLS alums are in legal academia.
The keynote speaker at the dinner was Professor Heather Gerken, who was snatched up from Harvard by Yale last year. She gave an interesting talk about her proposal for a “Democracy Index,” a national system for ranking the election-law practices of the different states. (We won’t repeat her remarks here, since Professor Gerken’s proposal is laid out in detail in her Legal Times commentary.)
Before Professor Gerken spoke, the audience was addressed by Dean Harold Hongju Koh. He updated us about recent developments at the law school, and gave the standard spiel about the brilliance and diversity of Yale’s first-year class.
(In case you’re wondering, the Yale 1Ls have a median GPA of 3.91. Their ranks include oodles of Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars… and a massage therapist. You can have the Rhodies, the whole lot of ‘em; just give us the massage therapist.)
Dean Koh also delivered remarks that could be viewed as part of his new charm offensive: an attempt to reach out to YLS conservatives, in the wake of some criticism on that front.
Some random photos — plus very surprising news about Justice Clarence Thomas and Yale Law School, the alma mater he’s had a rocky relationship with — after the jump.


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Professor Heather Gerken listens with rapt attention to Dean Harold Koh.
Dean Koh announced, with apparent pride, that Justice Samuel Alito — Yale Class of 1975 — would be visiting the law school later this year. (It appears that Justice Alito has no hard feelings over being snubbed by Yale Law School in favor of Margo Channing Linda Greenhouse.)
Dean Koh went on to point out that this will be the third visit to YLS by a Supreme Court justice this academic year. He noted that Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Justice Antonin Scalia have already graced New Haven with their presence (and that Justice Scalia’s visit was his first to Yale since being appointed to the Court).
Then, the bombshell: Dean Koh recently met with Justice Clarence Thomas, who said that he would VISIT YALE LAW SCHOOL, sometime in the next few years!!!
Dean Koh further added that (1) Justice Thomas said he “enjoyed” meeting with Dean Koh, (2) Justice Thomas remembers his years in New Haven as some of the best of his life, and (3) Justice Thomas WORE A YALE LAW SCHOOL NECKTIE to the meeting with Dean Koh. Wow!!!
For those you who aren’t familiar with the history of CT and YLS, please understand: this is HUGE NEWS.
Why? For years, Justice Thomas hasn’t had warm and fuzzy feelings for Yale Law School — ever since numerous alums and faculty members opposed his Supreme Court nomination. Justice Thomas viewed this opposition as a betrayal, and he has held it against the Law School. He
declined to have his portrait hung at the law school, as is customary for YLS grads who become SCOTUS justices. Furthermore, according to a profile of Justice Thomas from Esquire magazine, he has a sign in his chambers that reads: “SAVE AMERICA, BOMB YALE LAW SCHOOL.”
(That profile appeared before Yale Law School was, in fact, bombed. Does anyone know if Justice Thomas still has that sign in chambers?)
So the news that Justice Thomas will visit Yale Law School — something which, as far as we know, he has never done since being confirmed to the Supreme Court — is very, very big. We have no idea what prompted his change of heart (assuming, of course, that all the particulars of Dean Koh’s account are accurate). But we’re glad to learn of it, just the same.
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In her speech, Professor Gerken made disparagingly humorous references to polling places run by “little old biddies.” We laughed heartily. But the rest of the audience — about 50 percent of which consisted of little old biddies and their wizened husbands — was less amused.
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Dean Koh exerts his mind control over Professor Gerken. As he touches his fingers to his temple, Professor Gerken’s eyes turn red, indicating that she’s ready to follow his every wish and command.
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Our dessert, bittersweet chocolate bread pudding. Sadly, it wasn’t as yummy as we expected it to be. (We love bread pudding.)
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Left to right: Dr. Marc Totten, YLS ’06, and a future law clerk to Judge Thomas Griffith (D.C. Cir.); Professor Carlton Larson, of UC-Davis; and Professor Marco Jimenez, of Stetson.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Dean Harold Koh (scroll down)


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