Hunter Biden's Admission to Yale Law School

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Daniel Golden's Article

‘The Epitome of Sleaze’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Daniel Golden (October 17, 2019) says:

After The Price of Admission was published, I learned about an instance of a U.S. president seeking to influence an admissions decision. In 1993, Guido Calabresi, then dean of Yale Law School, received a call from the White House. Yale Law’s most powerful alumnus, President Bill Clinton, asked him to let in a Georgetown University graduate named Hunter Biden, according to two people familiar with the incident. Hunter was the younger son of Joe Biden, then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and now a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Calabresi, who had walled off the dean’s office from the admissions process at Yale Law to avoid just such pressure, told Clinton that he would not intercede. The admissions office then rejected Hunter.

Calabresi did meet with Hunter, however, and encouraged him to go to another law school and reapply to Yale as a transfer student. Hunter took his advice. After a year at Georgetown’s law school, Hunter was admitted to Yale in the summer of 1994, soon after Calabresi stepped down as dean.

A person close to Hunter Biden said that he had strong credentials, including an LSAT score around Yale Law’s median. At Yale, he earned editing positions on two law journals before receiving his degree in 1996. “The notion that his admission was a favor, or wasn’t merited, it’s just offensive to him,” this person said.

Scott Johnston's Blogpost

"How Did Hunter Biden Get into Yale Law School?" The Naked Dollar: Comments from finance/tech guy turned novelist (January 1, 2021) says:

Do you know how hard it is to get into Yale Law School? The admission rate is 6.9%. By comparison, Harvard Law is twice as easy. It's also tiny, with only 200 slots available each year.

Do you know how hard it is to transfer to Yale Law? Forget about it. Even harder. Typically, only about ten students a year are accepted. It goes without saying you'd have to be at the very top of whatever law school you were transferring from, and even then it wouldn't be a layup...

  • Biden arrived as a transfer in the fall 1994. This means...
  • He was accepted sometime in the winter/spring that same year
  • The Dean of Yale Law at that time was Guido Calabresi
  • It was well known that Calabresi's ambition was to serve on the federal bench
  • On February 9th, 1994, Bill Clinton nominated Calabresi to the 2nd Circuit, where he still serves
  • Thus, Biden's acceptance to Yale Law and Calabresi's appointment were contemporaneous
  • Chairing the Judiciary Committee at that time - the man responsible for confirming Calabresi's nomination - was none other than Joe Biden.
  • Calabresi sailed through the process...

I do not have Hunter's transcripts from Georgetown undergrad or his first year of law school there, but he's not exactly known as a scholar. I know people who knew him then and they say he was more arrogant than anything else. His life since does not suggest the slightest trace of intellect, except in the pursuit of ways to monetize his family's name...

There's a pattern of quid quo pro that seems follow the Biden family wherever it goes.

It's worth noting that the Ivies are very much part of the swamp. Yale, for its part, gets the better part of a billion dollars a year from the federal government. Also, there is a definite pattern of prominent Democrats getting their kids - somehow! - into Ivy Leage schools. Tucker Carlson did an entire piece on this. It's worth a watch.


Professor Calabresi is a famous law-and-economics scholars, honored as one of the four "founders" at the first meeting of the American Law and Economics Association in Urbana, Illinois together with Manne, Posner, and Coase. He is also a middle-of-the-road liberal. So he was not a controversial pick for being an appellate judge. Nonetheless, this sounds bad. Universities are notorious for having "Deans' picks" for admission--- applicants who are admitted outside of the normal process, for a variety of reasons having to do with donations and connections. The lawsuit against Harvard for discriminating against Asian-American college applicants showed how that works. It sounds very strange that Yale Law School would not have this, but maybe that is what is meant by Calabresi "walling himself off"--- that he wanted to immunize himself from pressure from donors.

When I got to know him a little as a visiting scholar in 1991-92, he was affable and pleasant to me, a young economist of no distinction (though someone who knew his nephew from college). He was outspokenly principled, maybe a bit too much. I remember how he said that if the big flagburning case, Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), had gone the other way, he would have burned a flag himself despite his patriotism, in protest just to get arrested.

But somebody once told me Calabresi was a great dean, because he had that ability when a rich alum offered to give $100,000 to say, "How about $200,000?". That, and his talent for economistical reasoning, makes me think he knew walling himself off from the admissions office was a good precommitment device to avoid getting hassled by donors and to improve his bargaining position. Even if Harvard College does it--- and I am not sure about that--- selling slots is declasse. It may be good policy for less prestigious institutions, but I really wonder whether on the demand side somewhere like Yale Law School could really get a good enough price to make it worthwhile. On the other hand, some alum who would give $20 million anyway, might well throw in, "And please admit my nephew," and it would seem rude to turn him down and embarass him. Better for both donor and dean if the dean can answer, "Sorry, it's out of my hands."

From what we know about Bill Clinton's brains and sleaze, however, we can imagine him telling Dean Calabresi, "Guido, if you don't do something for Hunter, I'm not going to nominate you to the Second Circuit in my first term as President. Get it done, somehow. I know you can manage it." If Calabresi had not been Dean, he would have been nominated anyway. Being Dean and having refused Clinton's request, however, could easily kill a nomination that would have been surefire otherwise. And it is easy to imagine how Senator Joe Biden would have gone to President Clinton, an alum of Yale Law School, and asked him to help out his son and how both would know Chairman Biden would then owe Clinton a favor. Guido Calabresi was obviously easy to get through the Judiciary Committee, but Clinton knew he would have other nominees who were more controversial or with weaker records where having the Chairman's help would be essential.