Author: Ronald K.L. Collins

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On Memorial Day — Judge Richard Kopf Remembers Holmes

UnknownOver at Hercules and the Umpire Judge Richard Kopf remembers — and it is fitting that he does — one of our greatest soldiers, a man who sacrificed much and in the face of it all saw many a dear friend fall.

Make of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., what you will. If you are so disposed, paint him a nihilist, or a fatalist,  a self-serving capitalist, or a defender of eugenicists, or any other derogatory ist label you care to pin on him. Still, his star glows.

But of this it cannot be denied: He fought honorably to defend the Union in its time of great need; he rallied forward when others feared to do so; and when it was done (all the bloody battles and lost lives) he remembered the fighting faith of those who struggled, of those Harvard men and others who journeyed into the dark of an eternal night. And he always remembered Memorial Day (see his “The Soldier’s Faith” speech) and tried to teach the young the value of honor in service to our country.

Thanks to Judge Kopf for reminding us to remember Holmes and all who followed him in serving honorably.

To first lieutenant, lieutenant colonel, and captain Holmes on this Memorial Day. Remember!

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FAN 61 (First Amendment News) Past & Prologue — Ralph Young on the History of Dissent & David Skover on Free Speech in a Robotic Era

In this post I highlight two new works (one on dissent, the other on data, etc.) to emphasize the importance of history, on the one hand, and the challenge of new technologies to inform the way we think about the First Amendment, on the other hand.

Let me start with history: Take dissent out of the cultural and constitutional equation and what remains is faint-hearted freedom. Dissent gives free speech its steel. The First Amendment’s greatest virtue is the protection of those messages we fear and/or loathe — those sent our way by insufferable Anti-Federalists, abolitionists, suffragists, unionists, anarchists, Communists, atheists, civil-rights activists, anti-war pacifists, gay-rights antagonists,  and even nihilists and racists.

Professor Ralph Young

Professor Ralph Young

Enter Temple University Professor Ralph F. Young and his new book, Dissent: The History of an American Idea (New York University Press, 2015). Generally speaking, this 600-page tome, which follows Young’s various volumes titled Dissent in America, does a splendid job of chronicling much of the evolution of dissent in America. His panoramic account spans much in the history of dissent from the plight of the Puritans, to the fate of Native American Indians, to the struggle of abolitionists, to the campaigns of labor activists, to the crusades of feminists, to the sit-ins of civil rights demonstrators, to the marches of war protestors, to the anti-Establishment songs of Bob Dylan, to the Stonewall riots, to the politics of the Tea Party, to the antics of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and more! It is a remarkable achievement.

Bob Dylan & Joan Baez (photo: Daniel Kramer)

Bob Dylan & Joan Baez (photo: Daniel Kramer)

Sadly missing from this otherwise impressive survey of dissent in the United States is any mention of the likes of:

That said, there is still more than a big bundle of worthwhile and eye-opening historical reading to be found between the covers of this engaging volume.

For a philosophical account of what exactly constitutes dissent, see Collins & Skover, On Dissent: Its Meaning in America (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Forthcoming: Stephen J. Solomon, Revolutionary Dissent (Palgrave Macmillan, January 2016)

Disclosure: Though an ad for Dissent: The History of an American Idea appears on this page, I had no involvement with it and was not otherwise influenced (positively or otherwise) by it.

* * *  * 

Unknown

Venturing on into the future: On May 26th Seattle University Law Professor David Skover will speak at the Third Annual Governance of Emerging Technologies Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. His remarks will be delivered at the outset of a panel discussion entitled “Robotics & Autonomous Systems.” The panel will be moderated by Wendell Wallach. The other panelists are Kate Darling and Greg Garvey.  

Professor David Skover

Professor David Skover

Professor Skover’s remarks are based on a work-in-progress, tentatively titled “Intentionless Free Speech: Robots & Receivers” (of which I am the co-author) (NB: We chose the term “intentionless” because it conveys a meaning quite different than “unintentional.”) In brief, Skover’s remarks will examine why First Amendment coverage should be assigned to robotic expression, quite apart from whether such expression merits constitutional protection when balanced against a spectrum of potential harms. The paper argues that robotic expression puts into  bold relief the view that much First Amendment speech is protected because of the experience of a user or receiver. The paper builds on, or moves beyond, or takes issue with the works of robotic free speech scholars Jane Bambauer, James Grimmelmann, Timothy Wu, and Eugene Volokh, among others. The paper began as an outgrowth of a series of conversations with Professor Ryan Calo, whose support and encouragement have been invaluable in developing our ideas in this new and largely uncharted area.

“Intentionless Free Speech” is the latest installment of the authors’ ongoing examination of the relationship between law and technology. This venture began with a 1990 article entitled “The First Amendment in an Age of Paratroopers,” and then continued with a 1992 article entitled “Paratexts” (expanded and reconstituted in “Paratexts as Praxis” in 2010), and ultimately developed into a book entitled The Death of Discourse (1996 & 2nd ed., 2005).

Headline: “NYC Censorship Event Gets Censored” — Another Mohammed Controversy  Read More

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FAN 60 (First Amendment News) — Mohammed-Cartoon Controversy Continues — Liberals Divided

We defend the First Amendment for everybody because there is no other way to defend it for ourselves.Ira Glasser (December 1977)

Intolerance is a human tragedy and must be addressed. But if there’s one cardinal rule in America, it’s that we err on the side of counter-speech, not censorship, when we hear things we don’t like but that don’t directly hurt us. — Gabe Rottman (August 12, 2013)

It’s axiomatic: Give it enough time and any irksome First Amendment issue will resurrect, albeit in new cultural garb but similar enough to be more than a distant cousin. The Mohammed-cartoon controversy is only the latest example of an old issue remerging to once again test the steel of our commitment to free speech. And with a firebrand like Pamela Geller — the  who promoted the “Draw the Prophet” contest in Texas — fanning the flames, some find the need to back away from the speech-protective tradition of the First Amendment. Predictably, rationalizations are tendered and excuses offered while exaggerations are served up in bountiful plenty. Why? Simple: Whenever speech really offends us (particularly when the speaker is over-the-top provocative), there is a strong tendency to default to a censorial mindset. Then again, the true greatness of our First Amendment is our constitutional commitment to default in a different direction — to ratchet  towards freedom.

Frank Collin demonstrating in Chicago

Frank Collin demonstrating in Chicago (1978)

You hear the words a lot these days in the news: hate speech / incendiary speech / fighting words / and much more as the battles lines draw around the Texas controversy. If you turn the free-speech clock back 38 years and situate the First Amendment in Illinois, you will soon enough discover a similar conflict with people throwing around similar epithets. Remember Skokie? Remember the Nazi campaign to march there, in that predominately Jewish community with many Holocaust survivors? (See YouTube clips here and here — see also here)

Before and after the matter was resolved in 5-4 in a per curiam opinion by the Supreme Court (with liberals siding with the claims of the National Sociality Party) and later in a cert. denial in 1978, there was considerable and heated debate among liberals. And nowhere was that debate more heated than in the ranks of the American Civil Liberties Union, which through its Illinois affiliate defended the First Amendment claims of Frank Collin — the lead party in the suit to permit the Nazis to march in Skokie.

The story of this contentious moment in our free-speech history is ably set out in Philippa Strum’s When the Nazis Came to Skokie: Freedom for Speech we Hate (1999). Part of that history is the enormous price the ACLU paid to defend the First Amendment even if it meant risking the group’s own financial survival. (In those days, the New York Times editorial board stood with the ACLU in its time  of peril.) Years later, that sacrifice came to be seen by many as a badge of honor. In some ways there was even a Shakespearean quality to the fight fought back then by the ACLU:

This day is call’d the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d, And rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors  And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”

National ACLU Weighs in on Cartoon Controversy

Lee Rowland

Lee Rowland

Meanwhile, a new fight emerges as liberals once again battle over how much free-speech freedom they can tolerate. Though up to now the national ACLU has not been very vocal on the cartoon controversy, when I inquired I received the following reply from Lee Rowland, the Staff Attorney for the Speech, Privacy & Technology Project: “I just wanted to let you know that the ACLU unequivocally believes that Ms. Geller and AFDI’s speech was protected, and that frankly, it’s not even a tough question. Our First Amendment protections mean nothing if they do not extend to speech that many find objectionable and provocative.”

The Draw-MohammedCartoon Controversy — Seven Views

 Real Time with Bill Maher: In Defense of Free Speech (HBO): “This is America. Do we not have the right to draw whatever we want? . . . Do we have to accept that Muslims are unable to control themselves the way we would ask everyone else in the world?  To me that’s bigotry; that’s the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens, “In Defense of Pamela Geller,” Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2015: Ms. Geller is hammering home the point, whether wittingly or not, that the free speech most worth defending is the speech we agree with least. That’s especially important when the enemies of free speech—in this case, Muslim fanatics—are invoking the pretext of moral injury to inflict bodily harm. A society that rejects the notion of a heckler’s veto cannot accept the idea of a murderer’s veto simply because the murderer is prepared to go to greater extremes to silence his opponents.”

Editorial, “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech,” NYT, May 6, 2015: “the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.”

Eugene Volokh, “No, there’s no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment,” Volokh Conspiracy, May 7, 2015: “there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas. One is as free to condemn Islam — or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens — as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialism or Democrats or Republicans.”

 Kathleen Parker, “Use and abuse of First Amendment,” Yakima Herald, May 10, 2015: “I take a back seat to no one when it comes to defending free speech — even that of the worst sorts. We let neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan march and protest because the true test of free speech is that unpopular speech is tolerated.That said, we needn’t embrace or celebrate people like Geller, who intentionally try to provoke a confrontation.She’s welcome to sponsor a cartoon contest, but we don’t have to attend. If Geller wants to stand on street corners and shout her views, no one has to listen.”

 John Costa, “Testing the First Amendment,” The Bulletin, May 10, 2015: “The question for those of us who value the First Amendment is easy to state but painfully difficult to answer. Are there limits we should impose on ourselves?In fact, newspapers that have standards of publication do it every day, which I know doesn’t answer the question of whether to publish the images of Charlie Hebdo or the cartoonists in Texas. I wholly support their right to their choice, but for me the answer is a resounding, ‘It would depend.'”

Stuart Anderson, “Have Mormons Become America’s Best Advocates For Freedom Of Speech?,” Forbes, May 7, 2015:”A worldwide debate has emerged over religion and freedom of speech. And who, by example, has become America’s best advocate for free speech? The surprising answer may be the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Yale Law Professors see Blueprint for Campaign Reform in Williams-Yulee Read More

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FAN 59.3 (First Amendment News) Floyd Abrams & Yale Law School — Friendly Foes

Pressures on freedom of expression and all too often the actual suppression of free speech comes not from outside the academy but from within it— Floyd Abrams, “Liberty is Liberty” (March 16, 2015)

I wasn’t surprised by what seems to have been the general disapproval of [Citizens United]. . . What I was less prepared for was the fury of critics of the opinion and the fierceness of their criticism. The ruling was treated as a desecration. –– Floyd Abrams, Yale Law Journal Forum (2010)

In no First Amendment case that I have been involved in has the position I have articulated been the subject of more condemnation . . . . — Floyd Abrams, Friend of the Court (2013)

There was a time when championing the cause of free speech was applauded by liberals. No more.

There was a time when rallying to the defense of controversial First Amendment issues made one the darling of liberals. No more.

There was a time when liberals automatically and heartedly approved whenever the Supreme Court sustained a First Amendment right. No more.

In more ways than these, the times they are a changin’.

* * * *

It is a sign of Yale Law School’s tolerance that it is the site of the Floyd Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression. Why? Because so many of the First Amendment cases and causes Mr. Abrams defends are antithetical to the beliefs of so many of the liberal faculty at Yale. Though few speak it publicly, the irony is unmistakable: On the one hand, Yale Law School has become the hub of the New Left’s attack on free speech, especially as proclaimed by the Roberts Court. On the other hand, Yale’s most distinguished defender of free speech champions the very causes his Yale critics abhor. No need to name names here — just follow the scholarly trail of articles critical of commercial speech, corporate speech, political speech in the form of campaign contributions, and more.

On October 24th, Mr. Abrams will receive Yale’s Award of Merit, the highest award given by the Law School. “The recipients of the Award are recognized for having made a substantial contribution to public service or to the legal profession.” 

 In 2016 Yale University Press will publish Mr. Abrams’ next book, Why the First Amendment Matters.  

UnknownOf course, for the New Yalees the worst of all sins is to defend Citizens United and its progeny. And on that score, there is no sympathy for the devil who was one of the lawyers who successfully argued that case. Even so, the 78-year-old Abrams takes it in stride as he strolls the halls of his beloved alma mater where he once studied under the likes of Alexander Bickel with whom he later served as co-counsel in the Pentagon Papers Case (1971).

Admittedly, there is some agreement between the two camps — take, for example, their mutual reservations about the Roberts Court’s rulings denying First Amendment claims in cases such as Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2010) and Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006). Beyond that, however, the bond tends to relax in varying ways and for various reasons.

The charge: Those who defend corporate speech, commercial speech, and Citizens United are the modern-day proponents of Lochnerism, that evil of yesteryear that is an anathema to every self-respecting liberal. Here again, the charge manifests itself in various ways and in varying degrees of explicitness. Still, that is the general sentiment and it is one very much alive at Yale Law School and very much so when it comes to the Roberts Court and its many of its First Amendment free expression rulings.

Dismissing First Amendment claims in the commercial speech context as “Lochnerism” seems to have become the new cliche du jour. There was a time, not many years ago, when liberal and conservative jurists joined together to support an expansive view of commercial speech rights as a way of assuring that the public received more information. Indeed, the first commercial speech case and first First Amendment victory in this area dealt with an effort to limit the public revelation of drug prices in the supposed service of avoiding drug price wars.

Now, sadly, the instinctive reaction of too many is to bemoan any such efforts and to turn to government as a sort of speech police. The Amerin case [see below] is one in which only truthful and non-misleading speech is sought to be protected. That’s a pretty modest notion in a First Amendment case, one that should — but I fear won’t — offer a bit of reassurance to those who seem to be more often uttering the words “New Lochner” than “First Amendment.” Floyd Abrams (May 7, 2015)

Justice Stephen Breyer: He is the liberal hero of liberal Yale Crowd, the champion of “collective speech.”

Floyd Abrams: Cross the ideological divide and you will find him there registering a spirited dissent to such collective notions of free speech — this despite his longstanding liberalism.

While Breyer the balancer is winning at Yale, Abrams the nuanced absolutist is winning in Court.

* * * * 

It is all too easy to forget: First and foremost, lawyers represent clients. By that professional measure, a lawyer with First Amendment expertise is expected to make the best arguments he or she can. Or as Professor Rebecca Eisenberg wrote in a 1993 article: “The role of advocate calls for constructing persuasive arguments that will generate favorable outcomes for clients.” That’s why clients (corporate and individual) seek out a renowned lawyer like Mr. Abrams. But Floyd Abrams is more than a lawyer: He is the public figure par excellence of free speech freedom. He is also the author of numerous scholarly articles and two books. Where, then, to draw the line? Are lawyers (including those with a scholarly publishing bent) to held to public account and even condemnation for the clients they represent? (Now there is a topic worthy of a law school conference, perhaps even at Yale?) (Consider Tim Wu, “Did Laurence Tribe Sell Out?,” The New Yorker, May 6, 2015); Michael Tigar, “Lawyering at the Edge: Unpopular Clients, Difficult Cases, Zealous Advocates: What Lawyers, What Edge?,” Hofstra Law Review (2007); and Stephen Jones, “A Lawyer’s Ethical Duty to Represent the Unpopular Client,” Chapman Law Review (1998).)

Before I leave that topic, however, let me say a few things about one of Mr. Abrams’ latest clients and the First Amendment claims he is raising on its behalf. To be sure, it is certain to be the object of critical comments by Yale’s liberal establishment.

UnknownMr. Abrams has been retained by Amarin Pharma in an action against the Food and Drug Administration. Here is how his complaint filed in the Southern District Court of New York begins: “This Complaint presents an as-applied First Amendment challenge to FDA regulations that prohibit Amarin, a pharmaceutical company, from making completely truthful and non-misleading statements about its product to sophisticated healthcare professionals, including Doctor Plaintiffs.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 7.18.16 AMLater on in the 76-page complaint filed on May 7th, Abrams adds: “Amarin has conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial demonstrating that Vascepa® reduces triglyceride levels and has other favorable effects in adult patients with persistently high triglycerides. The FDA does not dispute the success of this trial, but has nonetheless recently advised Amarin that it refuses to approve the promotion of Vascepa® for use in treating this patient population. In light of FDA’s refusal, Amarin now finds itself in a bind. Using pharmaceuticals like Vascepa® in the treatment of patients with persistently high triglyceride levels is com- monplace in medical practice. However, because FDA has refused to approve Vascepa® for patients with persistently high triglycerides, Amarin may not freely communicate truthful and non-misleading information about Vascepa® to healthcare professionals such as the Doctor Plaintiffs without fear of criminal prosecution and civil liability. That is because FDA regulations forbid promotion of drugs for unapproved or ‘off-label’ uses, even if such promotion is entirely truthful and presented in a non-misleading manner.”

Floyd Abrams

Floyd Abrams

“FDA’s treatment of Vascepa® therefore operates,” he stresses, “to keep doctors, such as the Doctor Plaintiffs, and consequently their patients, in the dark about all of the options for drug therapy they are legally empowered to prescribe to treat persistently high triglyceride levels.”

In sum: “Plaintiffs seek a declaration that FDA regulations promulgated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the ‘FDCA’) (including 21 C.F.R. § 202.1(l)(2), 21 C.F.R. § 202.1(e)(4)(i)(a), and 21 C.F.R. §§ 201.5 and 201.100), and FDA’s interpretations of the provisions thereof (including 21 U.S.C. § 352(a) and 21 U.S.C. § 352(n)), are unconstitutional, that Amarin has a First Amendment right to engage in truthful and non-misleading speech about Vascepa®, even if that speech is off-label promotion, and that the Doctor Plaintiffs have a First Amendment right to receive such truthful and non-misleading information about Vascepa® from Amarin, without fear of (a) criminal prosecution of Amarin or its directors, officers, employees, or agents through application of FDA regulations promulgated under the FDCA or (b) civil liability of Amarin or its directors, officers, employees, or agents under the False Claims Act.”

Joel Kurtzberg and Michael B. Weiss are Mr. Abrams’ co-counsel.

* * * *

Martin Redish, Floyd Abrams & Jack Balkin (L-R)

Martin Redish, Floyd Abrams & Jack Balkin (L-R)

To bring it all back to Yale: Last March the First Amendment Salon and the Floyd Abrams Institute hosted an event titled “Is the First Amendment Being Misused as a Deregulatory Tool?” Mr. Abrams moderated the discussion between Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin and Northwestern University Law Professor Martin Redish. Generally speaking, Professor Balkin argued that the First Amendment was being misused while Professor Redish took a contrary position (see video here). Most, if not all, of the questions and comments were highly critical of the position espoused by Professor Redish, which is very close to the one that Mr. Abrams advocates for on behalf of a number of his corporate clients. Read More

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FAN 59.1 (First Amendment News) Online Instructions on How to Make 3-D Printable Guns — Protected Speech?

It’s fun to challenge the State to greater and greater levels . . . To challenge it successfully enough leads to its own suicide, its own collapse. . . . There is a certain kind of logic to it, an extreme logic, a fatal startegy.  — Cody Wilson (ReasonTV)

Cody Wilson -- have gun, will publish

Cody Wilson — have gun, will publish

Cody Wilson likes guns, of a certain variety that is. He savors guns of the 3-D printable genre. With Mr. Wilson’s instructions and a costly 3-D printer, anyone can make a “Wiki weapon” or “Liberator” as he tags these plastic guns that can fire deadly bullets. The process is summarized by the “techno anarchist” in this YouTube video (see also 25-minute ReasonTV video interview here).

What does this mean? Well, it “won’t be long before a felon, unable to buy a gun legally, can print one at home. Teenagers could make them in their bedroom while their parents think they are ‘playing on their computer.’ I’m talking about a fully functional gun,” adds New York Times reporter Nick Bilton, “where the schematic is downloaded free from the Internet and built on a 3-D printer, all with the click of a button.” Worse still, says Bilton, “[a]fter committing a crime with a printed weapon, a person could simply melt down the plastic and reprint it as something as mundane as a statue of Buddha. And guns made of plastic might not be spotted by metal detectors in airports, courthouses or other government facilities.” (See May 6, 2015 NYT story here re history leading up to this controversy.)

We’re not interested in making you a machine where you have a more productive life. We’re interested in multiplying the problem. — Cody Wilson (BackChannel, March 11, 2015)

According to a Fox News report, “[w]ithin two days of publishing the blueprints on the Internet, on May 5, 2013, 100,000 people around the world had downloaded them. The goal, Wilson said, was to invalidate the government’s ‘unconstitutional’ hold on gun technology.” Predictably, the government stepped in. The State Department “claimed Wilson violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which ‘requires advance government authorization to export technical data,’ and as a result, could spend up to 20 years in prison and be fined as much as $1 million per violation.”

In October 2014 Wilson revealed his biggest project to date: the Ghost Gunner, a miniaturized [Computer Numeric Control] milling machine small enough to sit on a desktop. It’s thousands of dollars cheaper than big CNC mills [and can be used to make plastic guns] . . . . Defense Distributed sold out a pre-order of 500 machines, collecting nearly $700,000 in the process. Wilson moved back to Austin. By December, Defense Distributed was assembling Ghost Gunners in a new, 1,800-square-foot factory. [Source here]

Wired Magazine branded Cody Wilson as one of the “15 most dangerous people in the world.”

Acting through his 3-D gun printer company, Defense Distributed, the former University of Texas Law School student (he dropped out) has decided to defend his purported Second Amendment rights by way of a First Amendment defense to publish his computer code gun-making instructions. To that end, the 27 year-old Wilson has taken on the State Department by filing a lawsuit charging that the government’s attempts to prevent him from publishing his instructions are an unconstitutional prior restraint of his free speech rights.

  • Name of Case: Defense Distributed v. U.S. Dep’t of State (complaint here)
  • Named Plaintiffs: Defense Distributed & Second Amendment Foundation
  • Complaint filed in: US District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division

The attorneys in the case are:

  1. Alan Gura (he successfully argued Dist. of Columbia v. HellerMcDonald v. Chicago)
  2. Matthew Goldstein, and
  3. Professor Josh Blackman.

Summary of Complaint

Alan Gura

Alan Gura

“Contrary to the Justice Department’s warning that such actions are unconstitutional, Defendants unlawfully apply the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, 22 C.F.R. Part 120 et  seq. (“ITAR”) to prohibit and frustrate Plaintiffs’ public speech, on the Internet and other open forums, regarding arms in common use for lawful purposes. Defendants’ censorship of Plaintiffs’ speech, and the ad hoc, informal and arbitrary manner in which that scheme is applied, violate the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs are entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief barring any further application of this prior restraint scheme, and torecover money damages to compensate for the harm such application has already caused.”

First Amendment claims 

  1. Defendants’ prepublication approval requirement is invalid on its face, and as applied to Plaintiffs’ speech, as an unconstitutional prior restraint on protected expression.
  2. Defendants’ prepublication approval requirement is invalid on its face, and as applied to Plaintiffs’ speech, as overly broad, inherently vague, ambiguous, and lacking adequate procedural protections.
  3. Defendants’ prepublication approval requirement is invalid as applied to Defense Distributed’s posting of the Subject Files, because Defendants have selectively applied the prior restraint based on the content of speech and/or the identity of the speaker.
  4. Defendants’ interruption and prevention of Plaintiffs from publishing the subject files, under color of federal law, violates Plaintiffs’ rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution causing Plaintiffs, their customers, visitors and members significant damages. Plaintiffs are therefore entitled to injunctive relief against Defendants’ application of the prior restraint.

 

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FAN 59 (First Amendment News) Williams-Yulee — The Ruling Few Expected . . . & the One Few Will Remember

Now everything will be funneled through a candidate’s committee, which everyone will understand is really just the judge or lawyer-candidate under an authorized cover. —Alan Morrison (May 4, 2015)

Let’s begin with the numbers: Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar  is the

  • thirty-eighth free expression opinion rendered by the Roberts Court;
  • the eighth case during the Chief Justice’s tenure involving elections and campaign funding;
  •  the ninth five-four split in a Roberts Court free expression case;
  • the sixth five-four split in a campaign-finance case; and
  • the first of four First Amendment free expression cases the Court has agreed to review this Term.

Two more facts:

  • Williams-Yulee is the thirteenth majority (plurality re Part II) opinion by the Chief Justice — he has authored more majority opinions in the First Amendment free speech area than anyone else. Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are next in line with five each.
  • Finally, it bears noting that this is the second time the Chief Justice Roberts has found a compelling state interest sufficient to trump a First Amendment claim. See Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2010).

Okay, enough with the numbers.

Question: Just how important is the Chief’ Justice Roberts’ Williams-Yulee opinion?

Answer: Not very, for the most part, that is. Here is why I say so — aided by some of the insights offered by my friends and colleagues who participated in the SCOTUSblog symposium (see listing below) on Williams-Yulee. I also offer a few related observations.

Seven ways to think about Williams-Yulee  . . . & then forget about it: 

  1. The Good for One Time Only Holding: Yes, John Roberts jumped ship in a First Amendment case and broke ranks with the “tenacious trio” (Scalia, Thomas, and Alito). But don’t count on that happening again unless you believe in the GOD of SUPREME COURT MIRACLES. And don’t expect strict scrutiny to be so relaxed in future First Amendment cases. By the same token, don’t assume that a majority will settle for such a wide fit when it comes to applying the narrowly tailored doctrine in any other First Amendment free expression cases (national security, government employee speech, and student speech excepted).
  2. Limited to the Facts of this Case Only: For all the ink spent on safeguarding public confidence in the integrity of elections, know this: Williams-Yulee is likely to confined to the particular facts of the case — and not a comma beyond it. With that in mind, consider the fact that this was a case of a judicial candidate personally soliciting campaign funds. It was not a case of a  PAC or a corporation or a wealthy donor doing likewise in order to support that same judicial candidate. Or even hosting a fundraising event for such a judicial candidate, replete with that candidate present.  Nor was it a case of a judicial candidate making campaign promises as to how he or she would rule in a general class of cases.
  3.  A New Holding that Bows to an Old One: The rule of Republican Party of Minnesota v. White (2002) — the case that James Bopp, Jr., successfully argued and the one in which Justice Scalia wrote for the majority — will likely continue to be the First Amendment mainstay in most, if not all, other judicial election cases.
  4. The Judicial Elections Exception to the First Amendment: As evidenced by what it did in United States v. Stevens (2010) and in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2011), the Roberts Court has sometimes clung to the notion that speech is at least presumptively protected unless it falls into some category of historically unprotected expression. On that very point, Justice Scalia’s dissent (joined by Justice Thomas) took issue with the majority opinion: “Our cases hold that speech enjoys the full protection of the First Amendment unless a widespread and longstanding tradition ratifies its regulation. (citation omitted). No such tradition looms here.” As Ilya Shapiro pointed out, we now have a new exception to the First Amendment, which brings the number to 44 exceptions depending on how you count them.
  5. The Reinvigoration of Disclosure Requirements: One ongoing question in the campaign-finance First Amendment arena is the extent to which the Roberts Court will uphold various disclosure requirements. On this important point, Justice Kennedy (writing for himself alone) noted: “Indeed, disclosure requirements offer a powerful, speech-enhancing method of deterring corruption – one that does not impose limits on how and when people can speak. He then added: “‘Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot.’ Based on disclosures the voters can decide, among other matters, whether the public is well served by an elected judiciary; how each candidate defines appropriate campaign conduct (which may speak volumes about his or her judicial demeanor); and what persons and groups support or oppose a particular candidate.” Question: Will all this praise of disclosure requirements be confined to the narrow facts of Williams-Yulee? Stay tuned!
  6. More Free-Speech Protections Under State Constitutions? It is one of the cornerstones of federalism: A state Court may rely on its own constitution to provide greater rights than those guaranteed under the Federal Constitution, provided it does not violate any federal laws. By that constitutional measure, assume that, say, Arizona had a law identical to the one sustained in Williams-Yulee. Assume furthermore that the state high court in considering the constitutionality of that law under its state constitution concluded that the law was not narrowly tailored and thus struck it down. Assuming that the independent and adequate state grounds doctrine were satisfied, a state court might well take its analytical cue from the dissenters in Williams-Yulee (much as liberal state court judges once took their cue from the dissenting opinions of Justices Brennan and Marshall during the Burger and Rehnquist Court eras).
  7. Does it All Come Down to Recusals and Due Process Challenges? Given the problems that arise when judges run for election, it may be that the only road to fairness, consistent with the demands of the free speech provisions of the federal and state constitutions, are stronger recusal rules and a fortified version of the due process claim sustained in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. (2009).  In this regard, it is important to note, as the Caperton majority did, that the objective standards of  due process do not require proof of actual bias.

A Different View of Williams-Yulee

As with anything in the First Amendment world, others have a different take on Williams-Yulee and see it as significant and even a a sign of things to come: “Roberts’ authorship of the decision was pivotal, and not just because he is chief justice. Roberts has overseen a trend during his tenure toward loosening restrictions on campaign speech and money on First Amendment grounds,” is how Tony Mauro saw it. And as Professor Rick Hasen told Mauro: ““This is a huge win for those who support reasonable limits on judicial elections, and getting [Chief Justice John] Roberts on this side of the issue is surprising, welcome, and momentous.”

Contributors to SCOTUSblog symposium on Williams-Yulee

  1. Ronald Collins, “Foreword: Are elected state judges now ‘above the political fray’?
  2. Floyd Abrams, “When strict scrutiny ceased to be strict
  3. Jessica Ring Amunson, “A rare case indeed
  4. Lawrence Baum, “The Justices’ premises about judicial elections
  5. Robert Corn-Revere, “For Judges Only
  6. Robert D. Durham, “Yes, it can hurt just to ask
  7. Joseph Grodin, “The distinctive character of judging
  8. Ilya Shapiro, “The judicial-elections exception to the First Amendment
  9. Matthew Streb, “Much ado about nothing?
  10. Josh Wheeler, ““Seem familiar?” and other random musings on Williams-Yulee

See also, Alan Morrison, “Williams-Yulee – The ruling with no real-world impact,” Concurring Opinions, May 4, 2015

Pamela Geller — Free Speech’s Controversial Defender

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She is an articulate defender of free speech / she is a political firebrand / she is an unabashed self-protmoter and media persona / she is a fearless blogger / she is the co-author of The Omama Administration’s War on America (2010) / she is the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative / she actively  leads various “violent jihads” campaigns  / and she is one of the co-founders of Stop Islamization of Nations. Read More

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FAN 58.1 (First Amendment News) Alan Morrison, “Williams-Yulee – The ruling with no real-world impact”

My friend Alan Morrison recently sent me a few short observations he had concerning the new ruling in Williams-Yulle v. Florida State Bar. I thought his comments might be of some interest to FAN readers.

Alan is the Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest & Public Service at George Washington Law School and has argued twenty cases in the Supreme Court, including Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council (1976) in which he prevailed.  

* * * * *

This was a case that never should have happened. I say this for two reasons, both of which support the proposition that it will not have much impact in judicial elections.

Alan Morrison

Alan Morrison

First, one part of petitioner’s original state law defense was that she did not think that the ban on candidate solicitation applied because the Florida rule kicks in only when there are adverse candidates and the incumbent had not yet decided to run again.

Second, the ban only applied if the candidate “personally solicit[ed]” contributions, and most people would not think that a mass mailing and a posting on a website would fall under that ban, especially because the Florida solicitation Rule 4-7.18 (a)(1) expressly distinguishes in person from written communications.

Those “mistakes” are not legal excuses under the law. Nonetheless, they do show that this was not a test case because if one wanted a test case, no such defenses would have been raised. They also suggest that the Florida bar should have simply given petitioner a warning and never filed formal charges against her.

In terms of its real-world impact, the Florida law expressly allows a candidate’s committee to do what petitioner did here and much more. Thus, why would anyone who understands the breadth of the law try an end run? In other words, why take the risk that Ms. Williams-Yulee did when there is a much easier and far safer way to secure campaign cash? The more significant issue, and the one on which the majority of the amicus briefs supporting Florida focused, is whether direct in-person solicitation of contributions violated the First Amendment. Now that written mass mailings and websites from the candidate and not the committee can be proscribed, the in person solicitation ban is plainly constitutional, although one wonders if it would be applied to family members, law partners or college roommates – assuming that the Bar found out about such a case and were silly enough to bring it.

In short, Williams-Yulee is likely to be a one-off decision that will eliminate almost no solicitations that any real candidate, let alone a sitting judge, will want to make in any state with a rule like Florida’s. Thus, aside from not clearing petitioner’s reputation, the decision will not cut back on much in the way of either solicitation or other communication about judicial candidates, meaning that the practical damage to the First Amendment, if any, will be quite modest. Now everything will be funneled through a candidate’s committee, which everyone will understand is really just the judge or lawyer-candidate under an authorized cover.

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FAN 58 (First Amendment News) Citizen Recordings of Police in Public Places — First Amendment Protection?

We’ve had incidents where people have videotaped us and it requires unbelievable restraint. Typically during times where things can be a little chaotic. We really have to convey we’re living in a different environment now where police action is scrutinized and a lot of video is surfacing. We simply tell our officers to assume they’re being recorded out in public at all times. — South Gate Police Capt. Darren Arakawa (L.A. Times, April 21, 2015)

We live in technological times, in times when the means of communications are restructuring the relationship between citizen and State. Part of that new technology is the cell phone and its ability to capture reality with video accuracy and then transmit its recorded images to the world within seconds. In the process, citizens have become journalists of sorts as they convey the news of the moment to their fellow citizens and others. From Ferguson to Baltimore, eyes are opening as never before as the conduct of police is cast in bold relief. What was once routinely concealed is now routinely revealed. Predictably, there have been attempts to squelch (by force and by law) these new checks on police power — transparency breeds contempt. By the same token, the new technology can also turn its lens on acts of lawlessness, as the events in Baltimore are revealing. And as you will see below in the item concerning a recent incident at the Albany Airport, sometimes there are videos of police actually defending people’s claims of their First Amendment rights.

UnknownIt is a fact: Visual communication is revolutionizing our world, both in cultural and in constitutional ways. The public forum is becoming public in ways heretofore unimagined. Every street corner, every ally, and every open space is now not only a place wherein to be, but also a place wherein to be watched. True, it may sometimes smack of an Orwellian world, but it is likewise a world in which the acts of Big Brother can be scrutinized like never before. Hence, just as technology can enhance governmental power, so too can it restrain it.

How does the First Amendment figure into all of this? That is the question. Before turning to it, however, it is well to consider what happened recently to a citizen in Southern California as she attempted to record the events in her own neighborhood.

* * * *

Recent scene in South Gate, CA

Ms. Paez & police

A little over a week ago something disturbing happened in South Gate, California — and true to the times, it was captured on cell-phone video. It happened in a neighborhood where a “tactical unit” of police from different departments sough to arrest some members of an alleged bike gang, purportedly on outstanding warrants. As all of this was taking place in open daylight — replete with heavily armed police and what have you — Beatriz Paez was recording portions of it on her cell phone. The woman appeared to be a few houses or more away from where all of this was occurring and did not otherwise seem to be interfering with the police in any way.

Meanwhile, an officer directed an armed U.S. Marshall towards the woman with the cell phone. The marshall approached Ms. Paez, who continued to record the events. Suddenly, he lunged towards her, grabbed her cell phone, and then threw it to the ground and kicked it.

You’re making me feel unsafe. I have a right to be here. — Beatriz Paez

Fate being what it is, the scene was captured on video, apparently by another citizen with a cell phone camera.

See also, March 7, 2015 video-recorded incident in Santa Barbara, California, and March 24, 2015 video-recorded incident in Dillon, Montana.

Ms. Beatriz Paez

Ms. Beatriz Paez

What to make of this? “The officer’s conduct is a blatant and deliberate violation of the Constitution and his duties as an officer to abide by the law,” is what Hector Villagra, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, told a Los Angeles Times reporter.

A “blatant . . . violation of the Constitution”? While I agree that blanket prohibitions and the like on citizen recordings of police actions in public violate the free speech provisions of the federal and many state constitutions, among other laws, I nonetheless thought I would look into the matter. Here is what I found:

Summary of Federal Case Law

  • 5 federal cases out of four different circuits have sustained a First Amendment claim to record police activities occurring in public
  • 3 federal cases out of two different circuits have denied a First Amendment claim to record police activities occurring in public, though two of those cases involved unpublished opinions.
  • 8 federal district courts out of four different federal circuits have denied a First Amendment claim to record police activities occurring in public.
  • (see cases listed below)

When police officers seize materials in order to suppress the distribution of information critical of their actions, “the seizure clearly contravene[s] the most elemental tenets of First Amendment law.” Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 521 (4th Cir. 2003) (source: here)

Limitations on Citizens’ Videoing Police: Legitimate & Otherwise   

(credit: City Watch)

(credit: City Watch)

In all of this certain limitations might come into play, limitations that could confine the reach of an right, constitutional, statutory, or otherwise. Such limitations would include the following:

  1. Time, place and manner restrictions (see e.g., Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle, 622 F.3d 248, 262 (3d Cir. 2010), but “peaceful recording of an arrest in a public space that does not interfere with the police officers’ performance of their duties” is conduct “not reasonably subject to limitation.” Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 84 (1st Cir. 2011);
  2. Any behavior that might reasonably be viewed as interfering with the lawful activity of police officials;
  3. And then there are certain consent laws requiring individuals to obtain consent before recording anyone, even police engaged in public activities (such laws as applied to police officials raise First Amendment issues as evidenced by the 7th Circuit Alvarez ruling listed below). Moreover, state wiretap statutes are often used when citizens secretly record;
  4. Application of the fighting words doctrine (but see: Lewis v. City of New Orleans415 U.S. 130, 135 (1974) (Powell, J. concurring): “a properly trained officer may reasonably be expected to ‘exercise a higher degree of restraint’ than the average citizen, and thus be less likely to respond belligerently to ‘fighting words.'”), and R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 428 (1992) (Stevens, J., concurring) (“we have consistently construed the ‘fighting words’ exception … narrowly”).
  5. Disorderly conduct (but seeGregory v. City of Chicago, 394 U.S. 111, 120 (1969) (“To let a policeman’s command become equivalent to a criminal statute comes dangerously near making our government one of men rather than of laws.”);
  6. Securing the area rationale;
  7. Suspicious behavior rationale (but see: A person “whom police may think is suspicious but do not have probable cause to believe has committed a crime, is entitled to continue to walk the public streets,” and may not be arrested “‘at the whim of any police officer.’” Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 358 (1983) (quoting Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, 382 U.S. 87, 90 (1965)).

Recording Case Now Being Litigated in Maryland

Note: Many of the above issues are currently being litigated in Garcia v. Montgomery County (Case 8:12-cv-03592-TDC, U.S. Dist. Ct., MD), and Statement of Interest of Department of Justice supporting First Amendment claims.  See here re the complaint filed by Robert Corn-Revere.

Unknown→ See also May 14, 2012 Statement by Department of Justice re Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Department, et. al. (“[Police] policies should affirmatively set forth the contours of individuals’ First Amendment right to observe and record police officers engaged in the public discharge of their duties. Recording governmental officers engaged in public duties is a form of speech through which private individuals may gather and disseminate information of public concern, including the conduct of law enforcement officers.”).

State law ought to make clear that it is illegal for an officer to confiscate a camera or phone — and certainly to destroy it — or to arrest people simply for recording police action in public places.Editorial, L.A. Times,  April 23, 2015

Statutory LawIt would, of course, be short-sighted to limit one’s focus to constitutional limitations. That is, the legality of police conduct in this area could also depend on:

  1. The precise scope of statutory authorization of police conduct in this area, and
  2.  The character and extent of statutory limitations on police conduct in this area

See here re proposed California legislation creating a public right to record.

Officer Protects Assertion of 1-A Rights  

Obviously this is your constituional right.” — Deputy Sheriff Stan Lenic

When an airport authority at Albany International Airport tried repeatedly to prevent a young woman from InfoWars from distributing flyers informing passengers of their right to opt out of body scanning screening, a local sheriff’s officer came to their  defense. It is all captured on video by documentary filmmaker Jason Bermas — it’s a must see!

Compare International Society for Krishna Consciousness v. Lee (1992) (no 1-A right to solicit for money in public airports)

Police Policies & Training Programs 

  1. Boston Police Department training video re what citizens are allowed to record under Massachusetts’ wiretap statute.
  2. Luke Broadwater, “New city police policy says public has right to film officers,” Baltimore Sun, March 12, 2014 (Baltimore Police Policy here)
  3. Montgomery County, MD, Police Policy, “Citizen Videotaping Interactions

I am calling on incoming Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch to order a Justice Department investigation of the incident and to make sure that all law enforcement officers are trained to respect the right of citizens to videotape them. — Congresswoman Janice Hahn (April 26, 2015)

Lawsuits Against Municipalities: Damages and/or Attorneys’ Fees  

  • Danielle Keeton-Olsen, “Recent settlement in suit over arrest for recording police follows growing trend,” Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, June 16, 2014: “The town of Weare, New Hampshire, settled a lawsuit last week for $57,500 with a woman arrested for videotaping a police officer, adding to the growing list of settlements stemming from police officers’ restriction of video and audio recordings in public places. In Gericke v. Begin, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) upheld a lower court opinion that Carla Gericke was within her First Amendment rights to record a police officer at a traffic stop.Following that opinion, instead of choosing to continue with the trial, Weare settled the case with Gericke.”
  • “Other courts have reached similar conclusions. In a U.S. district court case in Maryland, Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Department, police arrested a man taking video, deleted his recordings, and subpoenaed his medical and cell phone records.The court affirmed the plaintiff had a right to make the recording. The court quashed the subpoena and awarded him $25,000 in damages in addition to covering his approximately $220,000 in legal fees.”
  • “Most recently, in ACLU v. Alvarez, the Seventh Circuit addressed the constitutionality of Illinois’ eavesdropping offense law after the ACLU of Illinois filed a pre-enforcement action against Illinois’ attorney general so its videographers would not be arrested for audio recording police officers in public places.Following that decision, the district court awarded $645,000 to the ACLU, covering attorney fees.”
  • See Datz v. Suffolk County Police (story here: “On June 8, 2014, the NYCLU announced a settlement approved by Suffolk County Legislature. The settlement required the County Police Department (SCPD) to pay Datz $200,000 and create a Police-Media Relations Committee to address problems between the press and the police department.”) (see settlement here)

Appellate Cases Sustaining a First Amendment Claim Read More

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FAN 57.1 (First Amendment News) Court Denies Review in Military-Base Protest Case

Today the Supreme Court issued its orders list in which it denied review in Apel v. United States (#14-874).

Following United States v. Apel (2014), the issue in the latest Apel case was “whether in light of Flower v. United States it violates the First Amendment for a person who was previously barred from a military installation to be convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1382 for peacefully protesting on a fully open public street, which has been designated as a public protest area, on federal property outside the closed military installation.” (See FAN 48, “Chemerinsky Petitions Court Again — Relies on Flower“).

Opinions in argued cases are expected to be released this Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. E.T.

THE COURT’S 2014-15 FREE EXPRESSION DOCKET

[last updated: 4-27-15]

Review Granted & Cases Argued

  1. Elonis v. United States (argued on 12-1-14)
  2. Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar (argued 1-20-15)
  3. Reed v. Town of Gilbert (argued on 1-12-15)
  4. Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (license plate case) (argued 3-23-15)

Pending Petitions

  1. Berger v. American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (license plate case)
  2. Thayer v. City of Worcester
  3. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, et al.
  4. Central Radio Co., Inc. v. City of Norfolk
  5. O’Keefe v. Chisholm

Review Denied

  1. Apel v. United States 
  2. Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District
  3. The Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York 
  4. Arneson v. 281 Care Committee
  5. Kagan v. City of New Orleans
  6. ProtectMarriage.com-Yes on 8 v. Bowen
  7. Clayton v. Niska
  8. Pregnancy Care Center of New York v. City of New York 
  9. City of Indianapolis, Indiana v. Annex Books, Inc.
  10. Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. v. United States 
  11. Mehanna v. United States
  12. Stop This Insanity Inc Employee Leadership Fund et al  v. Federal Election Commission
  13. Vermont Right to Life Committee, et al v. Sorrell