Author: Ronald K.L. Collins

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Prosecuting Prosecutors for Perjury? 9th Circuit panel comes down hard on lying prosecutors issue

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Updated: 1-28-15: 2:10 PM, ET

Writing in the New York Observer, Sidney Powell began his column this way: “What will it take to produce honest and ethical conduct from our state and federal prosecutors? The Ninth Circuit has a suggestion. Perhaps a perjury prosecution will do it. In fact, that is exactly what should happen when prosecutors affirmatively lie. This case, Baca v. Adams, involves a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Napue, which holds that prosecutors cannot put on perjured testimony, much less lie themselves. Unfortunately, as I’ve documented elsewhere, it happens far too often, when it should never happen at all.” I urge readers to take a look at Sidney Powell’s column, which is both informative and powerful.

Even more so is the video of the exchange between Judges Alex Kozinski, Kim McLane Wardlaw, William Fletcher and  California Supervising Deputy Attorney General Kevin Vienna.

Early on in his opening remarks (16 minutes into video), Mr, Vienna stated: “A number of things happened that should have not happened, and we’re not here to defend them.” But he defend them he did, albeit guardedly. It was downhill from there. Things got even worse when Judge Kozinski and his colleagues weighed on the matter of prosecutorial perjury.

The clip is too extraordinary to quote — you really must see it. So, click on the video and watch how Mr. Vienna attempted to make the case for the State as the Judges dug deeper into the issue of proctorial perjury.

Over at Hercules and the Umpire, Judge Richard G. Kopf adds a few comments.

UPDATE: This from John Roemer writing in the Daily Journal (Jan. 27, 2015):

“Misconduct by Riverside County prosecutors has forced the reversal of a 1998 murder­for­hire conviction in a case that raised the ire of Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and led to his demand that Attorney General Kamala D. Harris fix the situation.”

“Riverside County’s new district attorney, Mike Hestrin, said Monday in a media statement, ‘While we do not concede the prosecutorial misconduct was intentional or malicious … I am requesting that Mr. Baca’s murder case be returned to Riverside County to allow a retrial unmarred by even the appearance of impropriety or unfairness.'”

“. . . [Judge] Kozinski sought to pressure the state officials to resolve the case without having a federal court decide Baca’s appeal. ‘It will look terrible when we write it up and name names,’ he predicted.”

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45 FAN (First Amendment News) — Neuborne & Corn-Revere debate judicial campaign solicitation case

Burt Neuborne

Burt Neuborne

A libertarian and a liberal walk into a bar; the libertarian orders a shot of Kentucky Knob Creek while the liberal orders a glass of Napa Valley Merlot. True, they both like alcohol, but one prefers it with kick. If the metaphor holds true, Professor Burt Neuborne is the Merlot man and First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere is the strengthened spirits man.

The two seasoned First Amendment experts recently debated one another in a National Constitution Center podcast titled “Should elected judges be allowed to ask for donations?” Amicus briefs were submitted by both men in the Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar case (Neuborne et al here and Corn-Revere here). The friendly and illuminating podcast was moderated by Jeffrey Rosen, the President and CEO of the Center. Here are a few excerpts of that exchange:

This is kind of a mutual admiration society, although we are on different sides in this case.  — BN

Neuborne: “They were very careful in the White case to say that judicial elections may well be different because of the nature of what a judge does. . . . [O]nce [a] judge is elected, [he or she ] is expected to be absolutely impartial and not to tilt toward his political supporters and not to engage in the kind of behavior that we expect, and indeed want, congressional people to do. If you are elected as a congressman, you made promises to the electorate; you made pledges that you’re going to carry out certain policies. . . . Promises by a judge would make it very difficult for people who are appearing before that judge to think that the judge was in any way impartial. . . . We don’ t want the judge to lock himself or herself into a position that interferes with the mandate of judicial impartiality.”

“. . . You have to let judges raises enough money to be able to have a real campaign. . . . They have to be allowed to raise a significant amount of money and do real real elections. But the question is, how do they do it? Are they going to raise the money in a way that gives rise to an assumption . . . . that they are somehow bound to the people who gave them the money? . . . . The question is, in order to stop that from happening, can the States . . . . say that the judge can’t personally ask for money, people who support him can ask for money, but he can’t or she can’t personally ask of money, because that would threaten the integrity and impartiality of the process . . .”

Robert Corn-Revere

Robert Corn-Revere

Corn-Revere: “Once you make the choice to use popular elections certain things follow from that, and none of them are very easily addressed. . . . [When] you make judges into [political] candidates [who] are asking for people’s votes, they are not above the political fray. . . . [T]he judges . . . have to be able to talk about issues and have to be able to raise a certain amount of money. The question is whether or not having a direct fundraising appeal [actually] undermines that interest [in impartiality] . . . [In all of this, once judges run for office,]  then First Amendment [principles] override [the] kinds of restrictions the State seeks to impose [here].”

The question before the Court was: are these restrictions effective? . . . The opponents argued once you . . . allow judges to send a thank you note in response to individual contributions . . . and also to instruct their committees about who to approach, the additional ban on direct solicitations is ineffective . . . JR

Neuborne:  “. . . The argument is that the Florida statute is so honeycombed with exceptions that it doesn’t really advance the interests it is said to advance. . . . The question is: Is there something special about personal solicitation — which either puts more pressure on a lawyer [who might appear before the judge], or puts pressure on a litigant, or makes the public think that the judge would be more disappointed if you don’t respond to a personal solicitation or more grateful if you did respond to a personal solicitation — than this kind of backdoor solicitation by a proxy? I think reasonable people can differ over that. . . . I would argue that the stakes here are so high . . . that I would defer to Florida’s judgment that they want to have a risk averse prophylaxis . . . .”

Corn-Revere: “. . . . I think Burt’s summary of the problems of [with Florida’s law] was so succinct and so persuasive that I can’t believe we’re on different sides of the case. . . The difficulty is [that the Florida canon] only prohibits candidates from saying ‘please,’ it is does not prohibit them from saying ‘thank you.’ Hell, they can even host a barbecue for everyone who contributed to their campaign. If you look at the specific goals that [the Florida canon] seeks to address — first, preventing quid pro quo corruption . . .  — [and if you consider what it permits candidates for judicial election to do,] nothing in [the canon] addresses [that] quid pro quo corruption issue. The second interest — promoting impartiality and bias — again, once . . . you’re part of the political fray, you’re going to face those problems. The only issue . . . that [the canon] even attempts to address is the protection against coercion . . . . [But in this case there was no such problem with that.]”

“My view of the First Amendment is that it works in the opposite way [from what Burt suggested]; that it is the government’s burden   to demonstrate not only that there is a sufficient interest in restricting speech in any given instance, . . . but it also has to demonstrate that the means that it has chosen are narrowly tailored to address that interest and do in fact address that interest. That’s where I think [Florida’s canon] falls down.”

There is much more, and I urge everyone to hear the entire podcast, which you can find here.

 Aside: On February 3rd The New Press will release Professor Neuborne’s Madison’s Music: On Reading the First Amendment 

→ See also Jacob Gershman, “First Amendment Rights of Judges in the Spotlight,” WSJ, Jan. 27, 2015 (“In California, the state’s highest court has decided that judges there will no longer be allowed to belong to nonprofit youth organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation or other criteria, effectively barring membership to the Boy Scouts of America.”)

Mary Beth & John Tinker file amicus brief in Supreme Court in 1- case 

Mary Beth Tinker

Mary Beth Tinker

“The need to prevent disruption of the school environment cannot justify restricting students who engage in peaceful symbolic speech simply because others may take boisterous exception.” — Amicus brief on behalf of Mary Beth & John Tinker.

* * * *

The case is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School DistrictThe issue in the case is whether the Ninth Circuit erred (opinion here) by allowing school officials to prevent students from engaging in silent, passive expression of opinion because other students might react negatively to the message, thereby incorporating a heckler’s veto into the free speech rights of students, contrary to Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969).

The American Freedom Law Center is representing the petitioner with Robert Jospeh Muise as counsel of record.

Mary Beth Tinker and her brother John have filed an amicus brief in the Court with Robert Corn-Revere as counsel of record. Eugene Volokh and Ronald G. London and Lisa Beth Zycherman are also listed as counsel for amici curiae.’

Adam Liptak

Adam Liptak

Liptak Speaks at Cornell Law School

New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak recently spoke at Cornell Law School to give the Frank Irvine Endowed Lecture. The title of his remarks was “A New Deal for the First Amendment?”

As reported in the Cornell Chronicle, “Liptak mentioned another possible consideration in applying the law: If judging is, as he phrased it, “weighing competing interests” and “putting a thumb on the scale” in favor of marginalized speech, then should a deciding factor in applying the First Amendment be the relative power of the speaker? Though Liptak did not have an answer to this question, an audience member raised the possibility that a power-based consideration could lead to influential organizations, like major newspapers, being censored.”

Liptak was also quoted as saying: “‘I practiced First Amendment law for 14 years, and I drank the Kool-Aid,” he said, describing his previous faith in the amendment. ‘Over the years, many important decisions have been made using it, including allowing protestors near funerals and decriminalizing flag burning.’ However, he added, ‘there is something troubling we should think about: economic regulations being struck down on the basis of free speech.'”

Chemerinsky reviews three new First Amendment books  Read More

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FAN 44.1 (First Amendment News) — Professor William Van Alstyne weighs in on Citizens United

UnknownIn yesterday’s FAN column I posted the comments of thirteen noted First Amendment lawyers and scholars concerning their views of Citizens United, this on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the case. One of those who read that column was Professor William Van Alstyne, Perkins Professor of Law, Emeritus, Duke Law School and currently emeritus at the William and Mary School of Law.

As many know, Professor Van Alstyne’s writings on constitutional law and First Amendment have been widely cited by judges and scholars alike. In the free speech area his numerous works include The American First Amendment in the Twenty-First Century (with Kurt Lash, 5th ed., 2014) and his Interpretations of the First Amendment (1990). His scholarly articles in this field include: “Academic Freedom and the First Amendment in the Supreme Court of the United States: An Unhurried Historical Review,” Law & Contemporary Problems (1990), “First Amendment Limitations on Recovery from the Press — An Extended Comment on the Anderson Solution,” William & Mary L. Rev. (1983), “First Amendment and the Suppression of Warmongering Propoganda in the United States,” Law & Contemporary Problems (1966), and “The Judicial Trend Toward Student Academic Freedom,” University of Florida L. Rev(1967).

Though unsolicited, I was happy to receive Professor Van Alstyne’s comments on Citizens United; those comments are set out below:  

Professor Nadine Strossen’s comments assuredly had by far the more straightforward, compelling and convincing observations re the First Amendment importance and consistency of Citizens United than many  earnest but mistaken critics of the case. No doubt there will continue to be lamentations regarding Citizens United, but it is also correct that there has been no seismic (or even significant) adverse consequences from the Court’s well-articulated explanation of its First Amendment explanation in the case.

Indeed, from a sobering review of the case and of all that one might well consider in thinking about our distinguished First Amendment (the oldest and also the strongest in the entire world), I believe that many (perhaps even most) who favor the opposite outcome will eventually come to regret their support for upholding a government’s dictate restricting what citizens may spend of their own funds to convey their view of a law or of a candidate.

“Levelling down” in this fashion was devastatingly dealt with decades ago by Kurt Vonnegut (a staunch defender of civil liberties) in his five-page wonderful short story, “Harrison Bergeron.” I commend it to the premature, immature, and First Amendment misguided critics of Citizens United.  I hope that some, at least, will take a few moments to read the opinion before joining in the polemics of those who are (like all us in one or another particular way) sometimes unable to see the very special importance of our very special First Amendment. Why? Because they view law from the mote of an obscuring political zeal, blissfully unaware of  a deadly hurricane virtually blotting out the azure blue of freedom’s sky.

2010 State of the Union Address
2010 State of the Union Address
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FAN 44 (First Amendment News) Citizens United: it was 5 years ago today — 13 First Amendment lawyers & scholars offer differing views

“With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections,” [President Obama] said of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which allowed corporations to donate to political candidates. Justice Samuel Alito then shook his head and whispered, “not true.” — Tessa Berenson, Time (2015)

On this day five years ago the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (transcripts here and here & audio file — argument and re-argumament —  here).

As you will see, the comments below span a wide rhetorical range. On the one hand, some view Citizens United as “one of the worst decisions in the history of the United States Supreme Court” (Geof Stone), while others argue that the Court in Citizens United “reaffirmed and applied core First Amendment principles” (Joel Gora). See below for the full spectrum of views.   

Speaking of money and speech, the Court now has before it a First Amendment challenge to a panhandling law — Thayer v. City of Worcester (distributed for Conference of Jan. 9, 2015).

Before proceeding to the comments, I thought it might be useful to provide a few hyperlinked historical facts about the case. 

The documentary that prompted the litigation

Hillary: The Movie

The Petitioner

The Lawyer for the Petitioner in the District Court

Three-Judge District Court per curiam opinion here

The Lawyers who argued the case in the Supreme Court 

  1. Theodore B. Olson (argued the cause for the Appellant)
  2. Floyd Abrams (on behalf of Senator Mitch McConnell, as amicus curiae, in support of the Appellant)
  3. Malcolm L. Stewart (Deputy S.G., Department of Justice, argued the cause for the Appellee)
  4. Elena Kagan (Solicitor General, Department of Justice, reargued the cause for the Appellee)
  5. Seth P. Waxman (on behalf of Senators John McCain et al. as amici curiae in support of the Appellee)

Five Years Later — Lawyers & Scholars Offer Comments 

Floyd Abrams: “Academics, it seems fair to say, are overwhelmingly critical of the Citizens United ruling. If they were irate about  Buckley v. Valeo (1976) — formerly their consensus choice as the worst Supreme Court ruling since Dred Scott (1856) — they are apoplectic about Citizens United.  At the core of the both rulings is the now familiar proposition first uttered by the Supreme Court in Buckley  and repeated with approval in Citizens United that “the concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment.” If one accepts that notion, as I do, the ruling in Citizens United follows naturally and a documentary-like movie that castigated Hillary Clinton when she last sought the presidency must be protected by the First Amendment. If one does not, one naturally enough can join the four Citizens United dissenters in concluding that it is constitutional to impose criminal penalties for the airing of that film on television. For me, that was not a difficult choice five years ago and it is not one today.”

See here re brief filed by Mr. Abrams in Citizens United; see also his “Citizens United and Its Critics,” Yale L.J. Online (2010)

Mr. Jan W. Baran

Mr. Jan W. Baran

Jan W. Baran: “The Court was correct to protect political speech by all citizens and groups, including corporations and unions. Current so-called reform efforts, including proposals to amend the Constitution, prove that the First Amendment is all that stands between political freedom and government control of speech. Contrary to President Obama’s dire predictions, corporations are not distorting political debate and foreign money (which is illegal) has not flooded campaigns. It is the Obama re-election committee that became the first campaign to raise and spend $1 billion.  So much for campaign money distorting the system.”

 See here re brief filed by Mr. Baran in Citizens United.

Robert Corn-Revere: “Citizens United is like a political Rorschach Test. But when divorced from its many critics’ policy preferences, it is a pretty straightforward First Amendment case that concludes there are constitutional difficulties with making political speech a federal crime.  And, along the way, the Court reached a number of important (and usually overlooked) constitutional findings. One key conclusion is that “[w]e must decline to draw, and then redraw, constitutional lines based on the particular media or technology used to disseminate political speech from a particular speaker.” The Court observed that “[t]he Framers may have been unaware of certain types of speakers or forms of communication, but that does not mean that those speakers and media are entitled to less First Amendment protection than those types of speakers and media that provided the means of communicating political ideas when the Bill of Rights was adopted.” This fundamental constitutional principle is increasingly important as we witness seismic changes in the global media environment. And it is just one of several important pillars of the case.”

Number of articles about Citizens United in the 27 months following the decision 

New York Times         1100

Washington Post        327

USA Today                  220

Wall Street Journal    195

 This count includes columns and opinion pieces but not blog posts.

 Source: Douglas Spencer & Abby Wood, Indiana L. J. (2014)

Allen Dickerson: “Citizens United has become a symbol onto which politicians and commentators project their own hopes, agendas, and insecurities. But cutting through the rhetoric, the case asked a simple question: on what principled basis could the government ban a nonprofit’s documentary while permitting corporate newspaper endorsements? The Court, correctly, said ‘none.’ Nevertheless, legislatures and regulators continue to draw distinctions between different types of speech, and different types of speakers, and the result is a level of bureaucratic complexity average Americans cannot hope to navigate. Five years after Citizens United showed us our error, burdened by a national debate that yields more heat than light, we continue to avoid the difficult task of reforming that troubling approach to political engagement.”

Professor Joel Gora

Professor Joel Gora

Joel Gora: “The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was a landmark of political freedom. By striking down government bans on political speech by labor unions, corporations and non-profit organizations, the Court reaffirmed and applied core First Amendment principles. These include the concepts that protecting political speech against government censorship is at the core of the First Amendment’s mission, that the government cannot be empowered to decide which people or groups can speak about government and politics, what they can say, or how much they can say, and that democracy requires as much information as possible from diverse and antagonistic sources.”

“Embodying these principles, the Citizens United decision has had a number of salutary consequences. It has provided doctrinal support for further easing of campaign finance limits on political speech and association.  Second, the rejection of such limits has turned attention properly to more positive efforts to address our admitted campaign finance system difficulties. Finally, although the predicted tsunami of corporate spending “drowning our democracy” never materialized, the Court’s decision has helped spark an increase in overall political funding which has helped make our elections more competitive and the electorate better informed. All in all, I submit, a good day’s work for political freedom and democracy.”

 See here re brief coauthored by Professor Gora in Citizens United.

Richard Hasen: “After five years, it has become clear that Citizens United is only part of the problem. If the Court reversed it tomorrow (something I am not expecting), we would still have Super PACs funded by very wealthy individuals, loads of undisclosed money coming through 501(c)(4)’s and other organizations, and an increased ability for those with economic power to transform it into political power. It is time to rethink first principles — which is my current book project. Stay tuned.”

→ See Professor Hasen’s Legislation, Statutory Interpretation, and Election Law (ch. 13, 2014) re his comments on Citizens United

Forthcoming Book

Elizabeth Price Foley, Defending Citizens United: How Campaign Finance Laws Restrict Free Speech (Praeger, Oct. 31, 2015)

Alan Morrison: “The fight with the Court over Citizens United should not be over whether corporations have rights to make political expenditures, but whether the Court’s ruling in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) that there can be no limits on independent expenditures and that there are no constitutional or other values that can even be considered in assessing that ruling. Here are some examples.  The pre-Buckley decision in United States v. O’Brien (1968), recognized that the right to political protest could be overcome by the Government’s interest in enforcing its selective service laws. In Burson v. Freeman (1992), the Court upheld a law prohibiting the core political activities of soliciting votes and distributing of campaign materials within 100 feet of a polling place.  And cases like Ward v. Rock Against Racism (1989), would surely support an ordinance that banned sound trucks from blaring at more than 100 decibels at midnight.  Post Citizens United, the Court summarily upheld the law that bans all contributions and independent expenditures solely because the plaintiffs were neither U.S. citizens nor permanent resident aliens.  Bluman v. FEC (2012). (See also here.)”

 See here re brief coauthored by Mr. Morrison in Citizens United.

Professor Tamara Piety

Professor Tamara Piety

Tamara Piety: “Citizens United legitimated the notion that corporations (and capital) are embattled, “disfavored” speakers entitled to the special solicitude of the courts’ counter-majoritarian power, as if they were a discrete and insular minority which lacked access to the political process, rather than a force that is very nearly constituent of it. It relies on an implied (and specious) syllogism: if discrimination against people is bad, and corporations are people, then “discriminating” between corporations and natural persons, or between types of corporations, is likewise bad. This reasoning animates Hobby Lobby (2014) and is echoed in Sorrell v. IMS Health (2011), with “marketing” standing in for “corporation” and “speech” for “people.” This line of argument has destabilized much corporate and regulatory law.  For its proponents, Citizens United has been fabulously successful; but that success has come at some political cost. Citizens United has tarnished the Court’s public image. It seems likely that the decision will be cut back, but how and from which direction is difficult to predict.”

→ See Professor Piety’s Brandishing the First Amendment (2012) re her comments on Citizens United

Ilya Shapiro: “Citizens United is one of the most misunderstood high-profile cases ever and it’s both more and less important than you might think. It’s more important because it revealed the unworkability of our current system of campaign regulation. It’s less important because it doesn’t stand for half of what many people say it does. By removing limits on independent associational speech—spending on political advertising by people unconnected to candidates and parties—it weakened the government’s control of who can speak, how much, and on what subject. That’s a good thing. After all, people don’t lose their rights when they get together, whether it be in unions, non-profit advocacy groups, private clubs, for-profit enterprises, or any other form.”

 See here re brief coauthored by Mr. Shapiro in Citizens United; see also his op-ed “Citizens United Misunderstood, USA Today, Jan. 20, 2015

Professor Geoffrey Stone

Professor Geoffrey Stone

Geoffrey Stone: “Citizens United may well turn out to be one of the worst decisions in the history of the United States Supreme Court. As Oliver Wendell Holmes recognized almost a century ago, the American political system depends upon the reasonable functioning of the “marketplace of ideas.” It has always been clear that that “marketplace” is imperfect. But until now, it was generally able to reflect the views of the majority of the American people. With its decision in Citizens United, the Supreme Court has unleashed forces that seriously threaten to corrupt and distort that “marketplace” in ways that stand the First Amendment on its head and endanger the future of American democracy.”

See Professor Stone’s article “Citizens United & Conservative Judicial Activism,” U. Ill. L. Rev. (2012)

Nadine Strossen: “From President Obama,  in his  State of the Union Address the following week, to major media outlets, the vast majority of Citizens United’s critics misstate its holdings. Almost never mentioned are the crucial facts that it protects the rights of non-profit corporations and unions to spend their own money on their own messages; too often asserted is the falsehood that it permits wealthy for-profit corporations (or anyone, for that matter) to make unlimited contributions to candidates’ campaigns.”

See here re Professor Strossen’s comments on Citizens United

Fred Wertheimer: “The ideologically driven Citizens United decision has left the nation’s campaign finance and political system in shambles. It is one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever made. The Court ignored the country’s history, its own jurisprudence and the need to protect America’s system of representative government against corruption – a need recognized by the Founding Fathers. Citizens United will not stand the test of time. It will end up in the dustbin of history.”

 See here re brief coauthored by Mr. Wertheimer in Citizens United.

Larry Tribe on Citizens United

Forthcoming: The working title is “Dividing Citizens United: The Case v. The Controversy.” The piece will appear in Constitutional Commentary.

Adam Winkler: “Citizens United is one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in a generation. Yet the decision is widely misunderstood by the public. From Occupy Wall Street to the White House, Citizens United has inspired critics who insist that corporations are not people. Yet the Supreme Court did not rely on corporate personhood in Citizens United. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion never refers to corporations as people and nothing in the reasoning of the opinion turns on personhood. Justice Kennedy instead insists corporations are “associations of citizens” whose rights derive from the natural people who make up the firm. This is a problematic formulation that hides the corporation and allows the Court to avoid asking hard questions about what rights corporations as such should have. Justice Kennedy’s approach equates a business corporation with a voluntary membership organization like the NAACP, both equally entitled to assert the rights of its members.”

“Corporations are people under corporate law. That was their original purpose. And corporations must have some constitutional rights, such as the right to property and due process. Yet they shouldn’t have all the same rights as people, such as the right to vote or hold office. Constitutional doctrine would be improved if instead of hiding the corporation, we recognized that corporations are indeed people — and then asked which rights these corporate people ought to have.”

See here re Professor Winkler’s “Three Misconceptions in Citizens United

__________________

Event: Citizens United v. FEC after Five Years Read More

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FAN 43.1 (First Amendment News) Two Upcoming Events on First Amendment & Elections

This week there will be two events in Washington, D.C. concerning elections and the First Amendment. One is on the Williams-Yule judicial elections case, and the other is on the Citizens United case.

Speaking of Citizens United, my FAN post for this Wednesday will be devoted to the case, this on the occasion of its fifth anniversary. Among other things, the post will contain comments on the case from noted First Amendment scholars and lawyers.  

Heritage to host event on judicial campaign solicitation case

Tomorrow the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. will host an event titled “Judicial Elections and the First Amendment — Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar.” (The Williams-Yulee case will be argued tomorrow.)

The event will feature:

Hans A. von Spakovsky,  a Senior Legal Fellow at Heritage, will host and moderate the event.

Here is a description of the upcoming event:

On January 20, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments in Lanell Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar. At issue is whether a ban on solicitation of campaign donations by judicial candidates in state elections in Florida violates the First Amendment rights of the candidates. Does Florida have a compelling interest in imposing such a ban to preserve the appearance of impartiality of its judges? Is it necessary to ensure judicial independence and maintain public confidence in the judicial system? Does this ban on solicitation violate the First Amendment rights of candidates to engage in political speech and political activity? Does the soliciting of campaign donations involve core political speech? In a post-argument briefing, two First Amendment experts who filed amicus briefs in the case, along with the former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, will discuss these issues as well as the oral arguments conducted that morning before the Supreme Court. Moderating the panel will be a former FEC commissioner.

→ For more information, go here.

 __________________

Event: Citizens United v. FEC after Five Years

This coming Wednesday the Center for Competitive Politics is sponsoring a conference on Citizens United.

LocationCato Institute


Agenda

9:00 AM: The Story Behind the Lawsuit

  • Michael Boos, General Counsel, Citizens United
Interviewer: TBA

9:20 AM: The Impact on Parties in the age of Citizens United: Are changes needed?

  • Joel Gora, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School
  • Neil Reiff, Founding partner, Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, P.C.
  • Peter J. Wallison, Arthur F. Burns Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

10:20 AM: Should liberals support Citizens United?

Interviewer:
 Stuart Taylor, Jr.Author, freelance writer and a Brookings Institution nonresident senior fellow

  • Ira Glasser, former Executive Director, ACLU
  • Gabe Rottman, legislative counsel, ACLU
  • Wendy Kaminer, Author, lawyer, social critic and contributing editor of The Atlantic

11:20 AM: Beyond Citizens United: the future of campaign finance jurisprudence

  • Bobby R. Burchfield, Partner, McDermott Will & Emery LLP
  • Richard H. Pildes, Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law, New York University School of Law
  • Bradley A. Smith, Chairman and Founder, Center for Competitive Politics, Judge John T. Copenhaver Visiting Endowed Chair of Law at the West Virginia University, former FEC Chairman
Interviewer:
  • Matea GoldThe Washington Post
4

Tribute: A Liberal in the House of Harry Jaffa (1918-2015)

Harry Jaffa (credit: Ohio State University)

Harry Jaffa (credit: Ohio State University)

1-14-15: 1:03 a.m. My mind races. How does one pay tribute to someone with whom one disagreed on several important issues? – issues about life and law and other things that matter. That question confronts me as I sit down to pay tribute to Harry Jaffa, someone who taught me much and always treated me kindly.

It’s rather late. I page through my tattered copy of Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Lincoln Douglas Debates (1959). I first read it in 1968 or thereabouts. It’s by Harry V. Jaffa, the noted conservative political philosopher. He died recently. I found out by way of a New York Times obit by Robert McFadden. (Jaffa died on the same day as Walter Berns, another political theorist.)

I stare at the black-and-white pic of the young Jaffa taken years before I met him. I peer into his distant eyes. What was he thinking at that moment in 1959 / in that bookstore / next to his newly released book / finely clad / grinning confidently / with a book of the poet C.C. Cummings lingering behind his left shoulder?

* *  * *

“Since the first and most successful enterprise of the Fathers was to produce disobedience to an ancient established order, it would have been peculiarly difficult for them to inculcate reverence.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 3.35.05 AMI marked that passage – one from a chapter titled “The Teaching Concerning Political Moderation.” It is one of many such markings.

I think more and more about Professor Jaffa as I glance at the row of books in my library bearing his name. Formally speaking, I never studied under him, though I did know him. We met in the 1970s at Claremont College where he taught with the noted constitutional historian Leonard W. Levy (1923-2006). I read Levy’s books, too, though I was never one of his students. But I knew both men rather well. Levy was quite liberal (my stripes), Jaffa was quite conservative. Both strong personality types and both friends (as far as I know).

The Students of Strauss

When I first encountered Professor Jaffa, the philosopher Leo Strauss had recently visited Claremont. Back in those days Jaffa was friendly with many of his colleagues who, like him, had been students of Strauss. There was, for example, Martin Diamond and Allan Bloom. Of them he wrote this in his Crisis book: “I owe much to the enthusiastic interest of Professors Allan Bloom . . . and Martin Diamond . . . .”

That was in the days before the name “Strauss” became politicized. It was also before Jaffa parted company (sometimes fiercely) with so many of his former friends and colleagues, including Diamond and Bloom. There was still peace in that valley, that intellectual oasis where so many young students like myself came to learn how to read and appreciate the great works of Western political thought.

I studied under other students of Strauss (Michael Ormond and Thomas S. Schrock) and thereby came to read many works by the famed University of Chicago scholar – works such as Strauss’ Persecution and the Art of Writing (1952), Natural Right and History (1953), On Tyranny (1963), and The City and Man (1964), among other books.

photoOf course, one of the mainstays of my liberal education back then was History of Political Philosophy (1963), a collection of thoughtful and carefully crafted essays on noted political philosophers from Plato to Dewey. Strauss and Joseph Cropsey edited the volume. There was a long essay in it on Aristotle written by Jaffa (removed in the 3rd edition at H.J.’s insistence, I believe). I studied that essay and learned much from it, so much that I set out to read more by him. In time I came to Crisis of the House Divided, which I spent many an hour savoring . . . but never as required reading.

Somehow I came to meet Professor Jaffa personally, though I do not quite remember how. By 1974 I knew him well enough to solicit something from him to publish in my law school’s law review. It was titled “Equality as a Conservative Principle,” 8 Loyola, Los Angeles, Law Review 471 (1975), reprinted in Jaffa’s How to Think About the American Revolution (1978).

Our Dialogues

In the years and decades that followed, from time to time I visited Professor Jaffa at his home with his wife Marjorie. They were routinely gracious. The talk: almost always about Plato or Aristotle or Machiavelli or Hobbes or De Tocqueville or Lincoln or Churchill or Strauss or the Declaration or the Constitution. I steered away from partisan politics. Why? Well, because what I admired about him, what was most important to me, were his talents as a teacher, someone who had carefully studied the great thinkers and was committed to teaching others how to appreciate their words and thoughts. Ideas mattered more to me than ideologies, so I veered away from Republican-Democrat talk, though I listened nonetheless when Jaffa ventured off into those worlds. Sometimes even that talk gave me pause, made me rethink a few of my own views. Then again, sometimes not.

If you would know the Harry Jaffa I knew as a mentor and a friend, read his Crisis or his Thomism and Aristotelianism: A Study of the Commentary by Thomas Aquinas on the Nicomachean Ethics (1952) or his book with Allan Bloom, Shakespeare’s Politics (1964), or his essay “The Case for a Stronger National Government,” in A Nation of States: Essays on the American Federal System (1963) edited by Robert A. Goldwin.  There is, to be sure, more, but I will lay my cards there.

∇ ∇ ∇

In these ideologically torn and tormenting times, it is ever more difficult to be objective and open-minded. Friends flee. Few wish to be Socratic, open-minded, and receptive to reconsidering their gospels. Such one-directional thinking wars with the basic tenets of philosophy, properly understood. But if the ideal of liberal education still means something, and if our commitment to being an open society still stands, then it is only just to be fair — even if it means cracking open the doors of our partisan minds enough to see what we would not otherwise see. There is, after all, no truth in blind denial.

I hope I have answered the question with which I began. However that may be, kindly permit me to close with a few words by Leo Strauss, from his Liberalism: Ancient & Modern (1968):

“Liberal education, which consists in the constant intercourse with the greatest minds, is a training in the highest form of modesty, not to say of humility.”

Indeed.

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1

FAN 43 (First Amendment News) The ACLU making (more) First Amendment news

If you venture to San Francisco’s famed City Lights Bookstore you will see a big notice in the window; it is the same one you see above. Why this notice? Because more than all the rest Albert Bendich came to the First Amendment rescue of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (the noted poet, publisher & bookseller) a half-centuryor so ago. Sure there were others — namely Jake Ehrlich and  Lawrence Speiser — but the one who made the biggest difference was a young Boalt Hall graduate and ACLU lawyer, Al Bendich.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The history of HOWL (that great Beat poem) and the right to publish and sell it were very much shaped by the work Bendich did when a case involving the poem went to trial in 1957. The verdict in this obscenity case was a grand victory for poetry and publishing. And it was a proud moment for the ACLU in its successful defense of political poetry — that rebellious kind of verse that knocks the jambs off the doors of outmoded mores.

Later this week Ferlinghetti will post a statement on the City Lights blog to honor his former lawyer and longtime friend. And today the New York Times has an obituary by Margalit Fox about the remarkable life of this remarkable man — a skilled lawyer, a thoughtful scholar, and a man with a philosopher’s eye for the longview of life and law. Ferlinghetti is quoted in that obit. And one more thing: Al was a kind and generous man who was secure enough to be quite humble.

If we as citizens don’t know what our government is doing, how can we have an opinion of it and how can we call ourselves self-governing? What is the appropriate relationship for us as citizens and the people we elect as our government? Are they our servants or are we their servants? The First Amendment says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. There’s a reason for that absolute. — Al Bendich (2014)

In ACLU offices across the country the name “Bendich” is now being explained to a new generation of civil liberties activists. Long may it be remembered.

Al Bendich’s ACLU work on free speech, privacy, and equality may be fifty years old, but it laid the foundation for the rights we have now.Abdi Soltani (Jan. 12, 2015)

See also Sam Whiting, “Albert Bendich, attorney and defender of free speech, dies,” SF Gate, Jan. 13, 2015

ACLU’s Laura Murphy leaving

Laura W. Murphy, First Amendment freedom fighter.

Laura W. Murphy

The American Civil Liberties Union has announced that “Laura W. Murphy will step down as director of its Washington legislative office effective January 31, 2015. After serving 17 years as the director of that office, Murphy plans to reestablish her private consulting business, Laura Murphy & Associates. She will also return to school to as a student at Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.”

Commenting on Murphy’s leave, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said: “Laura’s tremendous work on the First Amendment, national security, racial justice, and criminal justice reform has earned her a reputation as one of the most tenacious and effective advocates for civil liberties in the nation. . . .”

Indeed, Laura has been a stalwart defender of free speech freedoms, which is never easy, especially in these highly charged ideological times. May her replacement continue that proud ACLU tradition with that same kind of passionate commitment that was her calling card. Meanwhile, may some of the best of Laura’s life ride be yet to come. Ride on!

Oregon ACLU’s Dave Fidanque to step down 

“In his 20 years as Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon, and his 31 years on the ACLU staff, he has been instrumental in protecting and advancing freedom in this state and nationwide.” Candace Morgan (2013)

David Fidanque has served as the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon since 1993. He joined the ACLU in 1982. Prior to that he worked as a reporter for KEZI in Eugene and before that for Congressman Jim Weaver from 1977-1981. As noted in a Bend Bulletin news story, Fidanque will step down as director on March 31, 2015.

David Fidanque

David Fidanque

For those who know him, Fidanque has long led the charge on everything from gay rights to the rights of the criminally accused. In March 2013, he received the ACLU of Oregon’s highest honor, the E.B. MacNaughton Civil Liberties Award, this in commemoration of his 20th anniversary as Executive Director.

Like Laura Murphy, Fidanque is a staunch defender of free speech freedom and has worked hard to champion free expression rights not only under the First Amendment but also under the Oregon Constitution (see e.g. State v. Robertson).

In 1986 the Oregon ACLU, under Fidanque’s direction, challenged the state’s obscenity law as applied to the owner of an adult bookstore. The claim was brought under Article I, section 8 of the Oregon Constitution. After hearing the case, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the law challenged violated the state constitution. Consistent with the ACLU arguments advanced in the case, the Court ruled: “In this state any person can write, print, read, say, show or sell anything to a consenting adult even though that expression may be generally or universally ‘obscene.'” The case was State v. Henry (1987).

Thereafter, in 1994 and 1995 there were proposed ballot measures to reverse Henry and other rulings. Fidanque and the Oregon ACLU successfully fought back those measures.

Still, an array of civil liberties issues continue to keep its director and the Oregon ACLU quite busy. Is Oregon the land of progressive promise? “That all depends on the issue,” Fidanque commented in a recent interview. That said, he welcomes the challenge and returns time and again to the ring to fight another day like a determined Rocky Balboa. I wish him well in all his future bouts.

 See also Anna Staver, “Longtime director of Oregon ACLU to retire,” Statesman Journal, Jan. 12, 2015

* * * *

What Al Bendich did as a young ACLU lawyer representing howling poets and publishers like Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg continues to serve as a model and inspiration for our current advocates, a model embraced by our tried and true First Amendment champions Laura Murphy and David Fidanque. Defending the freedom of speech of rebel poets and other free spirits will always be part of the ACLU’s core mission. Moving into the future, we will remember Al as we carry on with his work. – Susan Herman, President, ACLU

ACLU Lawsuit: PA Law to Silence Offenders’ Speech Violates First Amendment 

The Pennsylvania ACLU has gone to federal court to contest the state’s Revictimization Relief Act, which authorizes crime victims and prosecutors seeks a civil injunction to prevent speech that a could cause “a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish” to the victim or otherwise “perpetuate the continuing effect of the crime” on the victim.

The law came in response to a recorded commencement speech given by Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

ACLU Complaint

ACLU Motion for Preliminary Injunction

The ACLU of Pennsylvania complaint was filed “on behalf of journalists, news outlets, advocacy organizations, and community leaders who were formerly incarcerated, seeking to block enforcement of a recently passed state law that stifles the free speech rights of thousands of individuals and organizations.”

→ Counsel for Plaintiffs: The plaintiffs are represented by Witold Walczak and Sara Rose of the ACLU-PA, Amy Ginensky and Eli Segal of Pepper Hamilton’s Philadelphia office, Tom Schmidt and Tucker Hull of Pepper’s Harrisburg office, and Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Prison Legal News is also represented by Lance Weber and Sabarish Neelakanta of the Human Rights Defense Center.

ACLU files amicus brief in judicial campaign solicitation case — some “past leaders” file opposing brief

The battle between the current ACLU counsel and some its past luminaries continues.

On the one hand, the National ACLU has weighed in on Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar by filing an amicus brief in the case. Robert Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremain is the counsel of record.

On the other hand, and as in some past campaign finance cases (see my book with David Skover, When Money Speaks), an amicus brief has been filed on the other side by Norman Dorsen, Aryeh Neier, Burt Neuborne, and John Shattuck. In that brief they list themselves as “Past Leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union.” Burt Neuborne (of the Brennan Center, which also filed its own amicus brief on behalf of the Respondent, see below) is counsel of record.

 An amicus brief in support of the Petitioner was also filed by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

 Briefs filed in support of Respondent Florida State Bar were filed by, among others, the following groups: The American Bar Association, the Conference of Chief JusticesPublic Citizen, Professors of Law, Economics, and Political Science (including Prof. Lee Epstein), and Professor Jed Shugerman (author of The People’s Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America ).

 The Brennan Center for Justice also filed an amicus brief in support of the Respondent on behalf of the following groups: Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy, Lamda Legal Defense & Education Fund, Justice at Stake, the Campaign Legal Center, and Demos.

________________________

Oral arguments in sign ordinance case Read More

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FAN 42.1 (First Amendment News) High Court denies cert in 2 campaign finance cases

Earlier today the Supreme Court issued its orders. Those orders included a denial of cert. in Stop This Insanity Inc Employee Leadership Fund et al  v. Federal Election Commission and in Vermont Right to Life Committee, et al v. Sorrell [ht: Ilya Shapiro]

THE COURT’S 2014-15 FREE EXPRESSION DOCKET

Review Granted

  1. Elonis v. United States (argued on 12-1-14)
  2. Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar (to be argued 1-20-15)
  3. Reed v. Town of Gilbert (argued on 1-12-15)
  4. Berger v. American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (license plate case) (no date set for OA)
  5. Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (license plate case) (no date set for OA)

Review Denied

  1. Pregnancy Care Center of New York v. City of New York 
  2. City of Indianapolis, Indiana v. Annex Books, Inc.
  3. Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. v. United States 
  4. Mehanna v. United States
  5. Stop This Insanity Inc Employee Leadership Fund et al  v. Federal Election Commission
  6. Vermont Right to Life Committee, et al v. Sorrell
Posner
4

The Complete Posner on Posner Series

The Posner on Posner series began on November 24, 2014 and ended with the Afterword on January 5, 2015. Below is a hyperlinked list of all the posts.

 Table of Contents

  1. The Maverick – A Biographical Sketch of Judge Richard Posner: Part I
  1. The Maverick – A Biographical Sketch of Judge Richard Posner: Part II, The Will to Greatness
  1. The Man Behind the Robes — A Q & A with Richard Posner
  1. The Judge & Company – Questions for Judge Posner from Judges, Law Professors & a Journalist
  1. On Legal Education & Legal Scholarship — More questions for Judge Posner
  1. On Free Expression & the First Amendment — More questions for Judge Posner
  1. On Privacy, Free Speech, & Related Matters – Richard Posner vs David Cole & Others
  1. On Judicial Reputation: More questions for Judge Posner
  1. Posner on Same-Sex Marriage – Then & Now
  1. Posner on Case Workloads & Making Judges Work Harder
  1. The Promethean Posner – An Interview with the Judge’s Biographer
  1. Afterword: Posner at 75 – “It’s My Job”

→ Forthcoming: Richard Posner (Oxford University Press, Spring, 2015) by William Domnarski.

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FAN 42 (First Amendment News) Tribute to Al Bendich (1929-2015) — the ACLU lawyer who made the difference in the HOWL & Lenny Bruce cases

Al Bendich, April 5, 2013

Al Bendich, April 5, 2013

Some people make a difference in their lives; some people actually add to the bounty of freedom we call ours; and some people are so modest as to go quietly into the dark of their eternal night. Albert Bendich was one of those rare few. Sadly, Al died this past Monday.

Liberty in America is better off because of Al and what he did as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. He gave legal life to poetry and lawful voice to comedy . . . and more.

To know him was to like him — calm, mild mannered, soft spoken, and kind to a fault. But if you wanted to see sparks of passion — the ones that revealed the fire burning within him — all you had to do was start up a conversation about free speech. When it came to that, this lifetime defender of free expression became quite animated, but always with the composure of a learned lawyer who knew not only the law but also its history and the grand principles underlying it.

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than fighting for matters of fundamental principles necessary to the preservation of democracy,” said Bendich in 2009. “The ACLU,” he added, “is absolutely necessary in that process. Without it we’d be going backward instead of trying to maintain our position and maybe inch a little bit forward.”

Al Bendich was a true inspiration to everyone in the ACLU community. . . From his time as staff counsel at the ACLU of Northern California, to his days as a teacher, and then a career in music and film with his colleague Saul Zaentz, Al’s passion for the Constitution and his country was a constant. — Abdi Soltani, Executive Director, ACLU of Northern California

The People vs Poetry 

Turn the clock back to 1957. On June 3rd of that year San Francisco police arrested Shig Murao, the manager of City Lights Bookstore, for selling HOWL and Other Poems to an undercover officer. Thereafter, City Lights’s publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested for publishing HOWL. (See here and here for accounts of the arrest and what followed).  The case, People v. Ferlinghetti, went to trial.

The trio of defense counsel: the famed and flashy criminal defense lawyer Jake Ehrlich, the talented and knowledgeable public-interest lawyer Lawrence Speiser, and a recent Boalt Hall law graduate, Al Bendich (Speiser and Bendich were ACLU lawyers).

Here is how Nadine Strossen, the ACLU’s past President and a friend of Al’s, described what happened next:  “When Al Bendich worked on the landmark HOWL case, he was a very new lawyer, and the Supreme Court’s Roth decision, defining the obscenity exception to the First Amendment, was a very new decision. The HOWL case was one of first impression — the first actual application of Roth to an obscenity prosecution. Accordingly, Al’s brief in the case played a key role in shaping the law on point.”

“All free speech advocates,” she added, “are eternally indebted to Al for brilliantly managing to construe the Roth obscenity exception as narrowly as feasible, and persuasively explaining why it didn’t encompass HOWL. The brief had a palpable impact on the judge’s historic, speech-protective opinion, which in turn has had an ongoing positive impact on law and literature alike.”

Here is a passage from that brief:

Would there be any freedom of the press or speech if one must reduce his vocabularly to vapid and innocous euphemisms? An author should be real in treating his subject and be allowed to express his thoughts and ideas in his own words. Al Bendich (brief in People v. Ferlinghetti, 1957)

When it was all over, poetry prevailed.

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It was a new day in First Amendment America. HOWL could be sold in City Lights Bookstore and elsewhere. And all of this from a ruling by a San Francisco municipal court judge (Clayton W. Horn) who wrote a remarkable opinion that drew heavily on the work of a young ACLU lawyer named Al Bendich. Incredibly, it was the last time that a poem was the target of prosecution in an American court.

Even so, censors returned to the scene. Decades later, in 2005, Congress raised limits on the fines for indecency on the broadcast airwaves. That enabled the F.C.C. to charge up to $325,000 for every violation of its standards. And those standards barred reading HOWL on broadcast radio or television. “It seems like déjà vu all over again,” said Al.

Comedy on Trial

Imagine being busted for being a tad too colorful in telling jokes (many of them by way of social commentary) in a comedy club . . . in San Francisco . . . in the 1960s. Well, it happened to Lenny Bruce — no joke! The infamous comedian was hauled away from using indecent words during his performance at a club in North Beach in 1961 (see The Trials of Lenny Bruce).

The prosecutor was Hell bent on putting the “filthy” comedian behind bars for words spoken to adults at a joint called The Jazz Workshop where the likes of Thelonious Monk and others performed. No one was offended, no one complained, and no children were in the audience. Never mind. Bruce’s choice words violated sections 176 and 205 of the Municipal Police Code (unlawful presentation of an “obscene, indecent, immoral, or impure” performance) and section 311.6 of the California Penal Code (“lewd or obscene” words used in “any public place”). Now Lenny Bruce would have to face the music — and it wasn’t free-spirited jazz.

Al Bendich & Lenny Bruce at Bruce's 1961 SF obscenity trial

Al Bendich & Lenny Bruce at Bruce’s 1961 SF obscenity trial

Bruce had been looking around for a powerhouse mouthpiece, preferably someone who was “hip” to First Amendment law. Predictably, Al Bendich’s name came up. They met, they spoke, and soon enough Al agreed to defend the comedian on First Amendment grounds. So they went to trial.

The Judge? None other than Clayton Horn, the same judge who followed Bendich’s counsel and ruled in favor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Given the Horn-Bendich connection, things looked quite promising for Lenny. Ever the contrarian, Bruce demanded a jury trial. It was insanity. Still, Bendich preserved and thanks to several brilliant legal maneuvers was successful in securing a not guilty ruling.

photoHere is the kicker: the jury wanted to convict Bruce but ruled otherwise solely because of the precise jury instructions given to them by Judge Horn. Said one juror afterwards: “We hate this verdict, but under the instructions there was nothing we could do but give the ‘not guilty’ verdict.”

And who drafted those instructions? Yes, it was that same ACLU lawyer. Bendich had done it again; he had beaten back the forces of censorship. Now norm-breaking poetry and speak-your-mind comedy were safe in San Francisco.

* * * * 

There is, to be sure, more to Al Bendich’s life story than those two landmark First Amendment cases. There is, for example, his many years as counsel for Fantasy Records. And there is also his work on behalf of the constitutional rights of gays (see here, circa 1960), the poor, and the criminally accused.

My last conversation with Al Bendich was about the death penalty. His opposition was deep and passionate. His abiding sense of justice stemmed from multiple sources – his brilliant intellect; his commitment to the constitution and finally, his life experience.

He also spoke with his characteristic humility, but great pride, about his role in litigating one of the  most influential  cases establishing the unconstitutional conditions doctrine for recipients of public benefits, Parrish v. Civil Service Commission. In Parrish the California Supreme Court ruled in the 1960’s that predawn “bed raids” of recipients was a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, and that the government could not condition continued receipt of public assistance on the forfeiture of constitutional rights. — Dorothy M. Ehrlich, Deputy Executive Director, national ACLU

Remember the First Amendment lawyers 

We think of First Amendment law as synonymous with judge-made law. We know the names of the judges — Holmes and Brandeis, Black and Brennan, etc. — who penned the famous opinions. But what of the lawyers who, like Al Bendich, argued those cases and advanced novel and persuasive arguments? Regrettably, too often they receive too little credit for the work they do. We must do more to remember them, to learn from them, and to share their life stories with new generations of lawyers eager to defend civil rights and civil liberties.

Now he stands tall in the memorial ranks of other First Amendment lawyers — the likes of everyone from Walter H. Pollak to Ephraim London to Stanley Fleishman to Bruce J. Ennis and beyond. They were, after all, the ones who helped to shape the law in ways to make the impossible possible. In the process they gave new and vibrant meaning to the First Amendment.

Farewell 

“Al Bendich contributed so much to the strong protection of free expression in the United States,” said Robert Corn-Revere, a noted First Amendment lawyer. “He had the vision and courage to defend speech that many people found to be unacceptable. I hope this sad occasion will at least move us to remember — and to celebrate — his accomplishments.”

With Al in 2013

With Al in 2013

On a personal note: Al was a dear friend. A year or so ago I was with him in Seattle with David Skover, whose law school hosted a conference at which Al spoke (see video here). And then there was the time when David and I spent a wondrous evening in San Francisco with Al and his wife Pam — chatting away for hours on everything from Alex Meiklejohn to Citizens United to Humanitarian Law ProjectDespite a few differences of views, Al picked up the tab (fancy wine and all). The sparkle in his eye, his gentle grin, his soft tone, and the way he spoke with such an admirable commitment to freedom — I remember it all as I write this.

In my mind’s eye I venture to City Lights Bookstore and see Al and Lawrence Ferlinghetti there — the lawyer and the poet — talking about the need for more insurgent poetry. And I imagine the tall poet leaning over to Al and saying: “Poetry is a radical presence constantly goading us.” Al smiles. “Ah yes, and remember,” he adds, “one of the reasons we have a First Amendment is to safeguard that radical presence.”

One final thought: If you believe in the work that Al Bendich did, if you believe in freedom for radical poets and ribald comics, and if you care about free speech in America, you can do something — exercise your First Amendment rights / help to protect the rights of others (even if you disagree with them) / and support the American Civil Liberties Union (go here to donate) or whatever group (liberal, conservative, or libertarian) that supports the principle of free speech for all.

Farewell Al.

Postscript: See also Michael Tigar, “Al Bendich, Mentor, Lawyer, Friend” (1-8-15)