The basic story is here, and Orin Kerr (Law, George Washington) recounts other facts surrounding the recent incident at NYU here; and this site prints a letter from the student who asked the question in which he explains, rather plausibly, the grounds for his intentionally, but hardly gratuitously, rude question.
UPDATE: Professor Kerr's posting has actually elicited a couple of interesting comments: for example, here and here. (Be forewarned, however, that the pathetically dumb Clayton Cramer is, alas, all over the comments section here.)
ANOTHER UPDATE: Timothy Sandfeur has interesting comments here.
AND ANOTHER: An NYU faculty member confirms that this is Dean Revesz's letter (and thanks also to NYU students who forwarded it). The key part, commenting on the student question, is this:
First, during the student question-and-answer session, one student posed an extraordinarily rude, immature, and inappropriate question. Such a show of incivility to any individual invited to be a guest of the Law School, let alone to a Supreme Court Justice, has no place in our intellectual community. It is insulting not only to our guest but also to the law school community as a whole, and impedes the robust debate that events such as these are designed to promote. Questions can be asked--and should be asked--that are challenging, critical, and demanding. But part of becoming a professional and an adult is learning to ask these questions, even of those we disagree with strongly on certain issues, in a serious and mature way that does not involve offensive and insulting language.
Deans are, of course, in impossible situations in cases like this, since they have institutional duties that must override their moral and political judgment and opinions. Still, it strikes me as unfortunate to have made this an issue of "maturity," when it is plainly not. (This reminds me, in an odd way, of the furor after 9/11 when Susan Sontag pointed out, of course correctly, that of the many things one might say about the hijackers, calling them "cowards" made the least sense.) The question was clearly very rude, but asking it did not reflect "immaturity," rather the opposite: namely, a maturity of conviction and purpose sufficient to empower the student to dramatically violate expected norms in a room full of his peers and teachers in order to make a political statement. One may have different views about the appropriateness of such a political statement in this context, but it does not reflect poorly on the maturity of the student. (If the student had asked the rude question gratuitously, or simply for titillation, then the charge of immaturity would make sense; but he obviously did not.)
On a more minor point, I am struck by the suggestion that "a show of incivility to any individual invited to be a guest of the Law School, let alone to a Supreme Court Justice, has no place in our intellectual community." Why special status for Supreme Court Justices? They are obviously political appointees, chosen for their ideology and expectations about their behavior on the Court, not for their skill or competence or moral rectitude. Why is incivility, for purposes of making a political statement, especially inapposite in this case as against any other guest of the Law School? Curious.
AND ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts in support of the student from Clayton Littlejohn here. And there are also notable comments from "Steven" at the same site:
I think the format in which he was speaking plays a big part in the reaction he has been getting. The President and, I imagine, Justice Scalia, appear in only tightly controlled affairs where their points are stressed and the views of anyone else are suppressed. There are tight screens for both the questions and questioners. So, both Eric or any critic can not expect the time or space to say completely what they would like, as Eric did in his long letter, to make his point "politely."
Given what's at stake, not just the bigotry, but the murders and thievery going on in Iraq, the intimidating attacks on the poor domestically, and the general lawlessness perpetrated by this adminitration, we all have cause to emulate Eric.
With the issues that face us in mind, put these questions to them. There is a point to civility in that reasonable people who desire a resolution to conflicts require it. However, I am persuaded Justice Scalia, among others, believes morality is more important, and civility for them is a useful ruse.
AND YET ONE MORE: Stephen Bainbridge (Law, UCLA), in comments here, confuses, I think, the value of an independent judiciary (i.e., a judiciary whose decisions are independent of coercion from the other branches of government) with the fact that judges--especially appellate judges, and most especially Supreme Court Justices--are called on to make political and moral judgments with great frequency, and are increasingly appointed on the basis of expectations about the judgments they will make in that regard. One may think, as I and many others do, that an independent judiciary is crucial to the values we associate with the "rule of law," and also believe that appellate judges are political actors in significant ways. That they are political actors makes it unsurprising that they attract protests like that of the NYU student; that a judiciary independent of the other political branches is important to the rule of law makes it alarming when members of the legislative and executive branches threaten to coerce judges to do their bidding.