Tagged: First Amendment


FAN 83 (First Amendment News) Paul Smith Files Cert. Petition in Right of Publicity Case

It would be dangerous for persons trained only in the law to constitute themselves the final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations, outside of the narrowest and most obvious limits. — Justice HolmesBleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co. (1903)

If there is a legal principle that unites these rulings [concerning the right of publicity], it is hard to discern. — Adam Liptak (2013)

 Paul M. Smith: Most people know him as the man who successfully argued Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which overruled Bowers v. HardwickIn the First Amendment world he is known as the lawyer who successfully argued Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2011). There is, of course, more to the vita of Mr. Smith, the man at Jenner & Block who chairs the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice there, and co-chairs the Media and First Amendment, and Election Law and Redistricting Practices. So you get the idea — he’s a seasoned and highly skilled appellate lawyer.

Paul M. Smith

Paul M. Smith

In case you missed it, Mr. Smith’s latest case is Electronic Arts, Inc. v. Davis, in which he filed a cert petition in the Supreme Court last September. The issue in the case is “whether the First Amendment protects a speaker against a state-law right-of-publicity claim that challenges the realistic portrayal of a person in an expressive work.” The controversy stemmed from the depiction of  former NF players in the “Madden NFL” video game franchise.

9th Circuit Ruling: In an opinion by Judge Raymond Fisher writing for a three-judge panel, the Ninth Circuit denied the First Amendment claim. “EA has not shown,” wrote Judge Fisher, “that its unauthorized use of former players’ likenesses in the Madden NFL video game series qualifies for First Amendment protection under the transformative use defense, the public interest defense, the Rogers test or the incidental use defense. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s denial of EA’s motion to strike.”

The Cert Petition 

“This case involves the collision of the First Amendment and the state-law ‘right-of-publicity’ tort, an issue that has engendered conflict and disarray among the lower courts to the detriment of free expression. The right of publicity is a modern tort, first recognized in 1953” in the case of Haelan Labs., Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 202 F.2d 866 (2d Cir. 1953). Thus does Mr. Smith begin his brief and his discussion of the “modern tort” that gave rise to the First Amendment defenses raised in EAI. 

 Conflict in the Circuits

The Supreme Court has not addressed the question, and decisions from the lower courts are a conflicting mix of balancing tests and frameworks borrowed from other areas of free-speech doctrine. — Judge Diane Sykes (2014)

As argued in the Petitioner’s cert. petition, the Supreme Court’s “only contribution came nearly forty years ago in Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., (1977), in which the Court held [by a 5-4 vote] that the First Amendment did not bar a right-of-publicity claim against a television station that broadcast an entertainer’s entire human-cannonball act. . . . Thus, Zacchini offers little or no guidance in cases involving mere depictions of individuals, as opposed to appropriation of their actual performances in full.” On that score, and as discussed by Mr. Smith, there is a conflict among the lower courts as how to analyze such cases.

“The lower courts’ various and conflicting constitutional tests,” Smith maintains, “have resulted in numerous irreconcilable outcomes.” For example, in his brief he identifies the following conflicts:

  1. Transformative-Use Test: Used by the Third and Ninth Circuits.
  2. Rejection of Transformation-Use Test: The Second, Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits, along with the Florida and Kentucky Supreme Courts, have “held that the First Amendment protects non-commercial speech depicting well-known people even if the depiction is not transformed.” (See below re Rogers test).
  3. Case-Specific Balancing Test: Used by the Eight and Tenth Circuits.
  4. Predominate Purpose Test: Used by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Suggested Approach

The test used in Rogers v. Grimaldi (2nd Cir., 1989), Smith argues, “allows the right-of-publicity tort only when the speaker has used a depiction of, or reference to, a celebrity to sell something — either by falsely claiming a celebrity commercial endorsement or by including a celebrity image in a publication gratuitously, just to attract attention. Confined to these circumstances, the right of publicity does not raise constitutional concerns. Speech that falsely claims a commercial endorsement is akin to the category of fraudulent speech that the government has long regulated without any First Amendment concerns. And the gratuitous use of a celebrity’s image to attract attention, unrelated to any expressive content in the work, likewise falls outside First Amendment protection altogether. Thus confined, the right-of- publicity tort raises little constitutional concern.”

The brief closes with this admonition: “Unless and until this Court intervenes, a great deal of valuable and protected expression will be chilled.”

Related Articles, Events & Blogs

 → Rebecca Tushnet, “A Mask that Eats into the Face: Images and the Right of Publicity,” Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts (2015)

 Eugene Volokh,” Freedom of Speech and theRight of Publicity,” 40 Houston Law Review 903 (2003)

 Rothman’s Roadmap to the Right of Publicity: a 50-state interactive survey of right of publicity laws, plus breaking news.

→ On October 17, 2015, the Abrams Institute hosted a workshop entitled “Right of Publicity: Closed Workshop.” Participatants included Floyd Abrams, Paul M. Smith, Rebecca Tushnet, Jennifer Rothman, Mark Lemley, Jack M. Balkin, Bruce Keller, Stacey Dogan, and Lee Levine.  The following issues were addressed:

  1. Current state of right of publicity law;
  2. Introduction to the current relationship of right of publicity to copyright, trademark and privacy principles;
  3. First Amendment theories relevant to thinking about right of publicity;
  4. The nature of the “right”;
  5. How is the “right” to be reconciled with the First Amendment?;
  6. Relationship to Copyright law; Relationship to Trademark law; and
  7. Practical issues

11th Circuit finds Georgia State psychologists have no First Amendment right to complain Read More


FAN 81.1 (First Amendment News) Floyd Abrams, “Beyond the Reach of Government”

Floyd Abrams

Floyd Abrams

The following remarks were delivered at Yale Law School on Saturday, October 24, 2015 on the occasion of Floyd Abrams receiving the Yale Law School Association Award of Merit. Previous recipients include Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. The remarks below are posted with Mr. Abrams’ permission.  

* * * * 

My ticket of admission to this party today appears to be the First Amendment so I thought I’d distill all my learning on the subject into a five minute presentation. Draw what conclusions you choose from my presumption in doing so – the notion of a five-minute tour of the First Amendment may be a first in and of itself – but here we go.

First, we’re lucky, really lucky, to have it. Not just because it’s a good thing that we have a First Amendment, although of course it is, but because we came so perilously close to not having it at all. It’s worth recalling that the states that met in Philadelphia in 1789 to draft a Constitution unanimously voted not to have a bill of rights at all. Why, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 84, “declare that things should not be done which there is no power to do”? “Why,” he asked, “should it be said that liberty of the press should not be restrained when no power is given by which such restrictions may be imposed?” Only the unyielding position by Jefferson and others that, in Jefferson’s words, “a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth” led to the adoption of any bill of rights, let alone one with a First Amendment.

imagesSecond, for all of its 18th century lineage, the First Amendment may be best understood – I know Justice Scalia would not approve – as a 20th century, even second half of the 20th century, document. It wasn’t seriously cited in any number of Supreme Court opinions as a bulwark against government overreach until the enduring Holmes and Brandeis opinions (often in dissent) in the 1920’s; it wasn’t applied to the states until the 1920’s; and the first federal law held to be unconstitutional based on the First Amendment did not occur until 1965.

Third, the First Amendment is negative in nature. It says “Congress shall make no law” on purpose. It doesn’t promise freedom of the press; it promises that the government will not abridge it. That leaves lots of room for interpretation. But it does not permit the conclusion – sorry about this, Justice Breyer – that “first and foremost, the First Amendment seeks to facilitate self-government” by “encouraging the exchange of information and ideas which are necessary for citizens themselves to shape “public opinion” No.

The First Amendment certainly facilitates self-government. It certainly helps in the shaping of public opinion. But first and foremost, it does so by putting free speech and free press, as Madison put it, “beyond the reach of this Government.”

Over half a century ago, the essayist Norman Cousins put it this way: It is not “that democracy lacks affirmative values. The affirmative values are many and varied, but they all rest on a solid bedrock of restraints upon government.”

Fourth, any bill of rights and any First Amendment is only meaningful if the government it purports to limit is prepared to obey it – to treat it as binding law. Consider this alternative to the First Amendment: “Citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, demonstration and of association.” Not bad, right? But that’s to be found in Article 67 of the Constitution of North Korea, one of the world’s truly despotic, murderous and freedom-destroying nations. Its asserted protection of free speech is a lie, nothing less, since, it is rooted neither in any concept of law, let alone individual liberty.

To return to my beginning: We are a lucky people in so many ways. I am lucky and so are you to have attended this great institution. And we’re all lucky to live in a nation in which freedom of speech is so rightly revered.

© Floyd Abrams, 2015


FAN 74 (First Amendment News) Summer thoughts on dissent

Before the summer runs its course, I thought I’d do a post on one of my favorite topics — dissent. So no news this week, just some thoughts on dissent — and some lists of books, and songs, and what have you.

Take dissent out of the cultural and constitutional equation and what remains is faint-hearted freedom. Dissent gives free speech its steel. One of the First Amendment’s greatest virtues 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, Tea Party supporters, religious zealots, the politically incorrect, and even nihilists.

* * * *

William F. Buckley, Jr.

William F. Buckley, Jr.

Dissent. It is a word we all know. We use the word with regularity in any variety of contexts. Judges dissent against a court majority. Political activists dissent against the establishment. Religious protesters dissent against orthodoxy. Students dissent against an administration. Newspaper editorialists dissent against politicians. And employees dissent against management. The list goes on.

In these ways and others, America values dissent, or so it seems. We often tolerate, encourage, and protect dissent. It is part of our Madisonian heritage. Some preach it, some practice it, others safeguard it, and still others endure it even when they oppose its message. Dissent is a salient feature of our modern society. It is a cultural and constitutional given.

Over the ages, dissent has been championed for assorted reasons. Dissent, it might be said, promotes self-realization and autonomy. It enables individual self-expression without fear of societal repression. The liberty of self is meaningless if one must always conform to majority will. Freedom for the outsider allows a unique brand of self-identity and self-expression.

Dissent, it might be said, advances religious freedom. When people of faith are permitted to question prevailing beliefs, they stand to redefine the relationship between themselves and their Maker. This spirit of moderation extinguishes the fires of heresy.

Dissent, it might also be said, contributes to the marketplace of ideas. It does this by promoting competition among divergent viewpoints. The hope is that, in the battle of opinions, some form of truth will prevail over falsehood, and the struggle will produce a more enlightened citizenry.

(credit: Adam Zyglis / The Buffalo News)

(credit: Adam Zyglis / The Buffalo News)

Dissent, it might further be said, enables self-governance by civic participation. Such participation is a two-way street: it is the prerogative to agree or disagree with governmental action. When the governed rule, they must have the right to differ from their governors.

Dissent likewise checks governmental abuses of power. When the whistleblower exposes governmental corruption or malfeasance, political power then comes under public scrutiny. By raising citizen awareness, dissent might bring about institutional reforms.

Dissent might moreover cultivate a democratic culture of tolerance, where all views are suffered no matter how objectionable they may be. Democracy is diversity, and diversity of views is often born out of dissent. One measure of a thriving democracy is the extent to which it fosters vibrant dissent.

Finally, it might also be said that a culture of dissent secures a safe haven for the outsider. When individuals no longer fear censure simply for being different, they can give public voice to their private views. Thereby, dissenters are afforded a chance to expand the behavioral boundaries of their society.

Whatever the objections to dissent, it is valued for all these reasons and others.  (source: Collins & Skover, On Dissent: Its Meaning in America)

Unknown rebel in front of tank in Tiananmen Square (credit: The Mirror, UK)

Unknown rebel in front of tank in Tiananmen Square (credit: The Mirror, UK)

Books of and on Dissent 

  1. Pierre Berton, editor, Voices from the Sixties: Twenty-Two Views of a Revolutionary Decade (1966)
  2. William F. Buckley, Jr., God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom” (1951)
  3. Stokely Carmichael & Charles Hamilton, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (1976)
  4. Stephen Carter, The Dissent of the Governed (1998)
  5. Nancy Chang, Silencing Political Dissent (2002)
  6. Collins & Skover, On Dissent: Its Meaning in America (2013)
  7. Dinesh D’Souza, Letters to a Young Conservative (2005)
  8. William O. Douglas, Points of Rebellion (1969)
  9. Christopher Fairman, Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting our First Amendment Liberties (2009)
  10. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (1963)
  11.  Amin Ghaziani, The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington (2008)
  12. Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2009)
  13. Andrew Hsiao & Audrea Lim, editors, The Verso Book of Dissent: From Spartacus to the Shoe-Thrower of Baghdad (2010)
  14.  Eugene Dennis

                   Eugene Dennis

    Martin Luther King, Letter From a Birmingham Jail (1963) (full text here)

  15. Anthony Lewis, Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment (2007)
  16. Robert W.T. Martin, Government by Dissent: Protest, Resistance, and Radical Democratic Thought in the Early American Republic (2013)
  17. Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (1970)
  18. Jack Newfield, editor, American Rebels (2003)
  19. The Port Huron Statement: The Visionary Call of the 1960s Revolution (1962, 2005)
  20. Michael Ratner & Margaret Ratner Kunstler, Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in 21st-century America (2011)
  21. Charles Reich, The Greening of America (1964)
  22. Austin Sarat, editor, Dissent in Dangerous Times (2005)
  23. Steven Shiffrin, Dissent, Injustice, and the Meanings of America (2010)
  24. Herbert Storing, editor, The Complete Anti-Federalist (1981)
  25. Cass Sunstein, Why Societies Need Dissent (2003)
  26. Henry David Thoreau, Jeffrey S. Cramer, editor, Essays (2013)
  27. Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991)
  28. Ralph Young, Dissent: The History of an American Idea (2015)
  29. Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology (1990)

51CmbungqBL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Forthcoming Books on Dissent

  1. Melvin Urofsky, Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court’s History and the Nation’s Constitutional Dialogue (Pantheon, October 13, 2015)
  2. Stephen D. Solomon, Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech (St. Martin’s Press (April 26, 2016)
  3. Thomas Grace, Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties (University of Massachusetts Press, January 14, 2016)
  4. Maria Rovisco & Jonathan Corpus Ong, editors, Taking the Square: Mediated Dissent and Occupations of Public Space (Rowman & Littfield, April 2016)
  5. Wendy B. Scott & Linda S. Greene, I Dissent!: The Dissenting Opinions of Justice Thurgood Marshall (Carolina Academic Press, March 11, 2016)
  6. Thomas Grace, Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties (University of Massachusetts Press, January 14, 2016)

* * * *

 [I]f there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate. — Holmes, dissenting in United States v. Schwimmer (1929)

Editorial_cartoon_depicting_Charles_Darwin_as_an_ape_(1871)Books of and on Religious Dissent

  1. Margaret H. Bacon, The Quiet Rebels: The Story of the Quakers in America (1969)
  2. John M. Barry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul (2012)
  3. Nicholas P. Miller, The Religious Roots of the First Amendment: Dissenting Protestants and the Separation of Church and State (2012)
  4. William Lee Miller, The First Liberty, Expanded and Updated: The First Liberty: America’s Foundation in Religious Freedom (2003)
  5. Martha Nussbaum, Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America’s Tradition of Religious Equality (2010)
  6. Shawn Francis Peters, Judging Jehovah’s Witnesses: Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights Revolution (2000)
  7. John Ragosta, Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution & Secured Religious Liberty (2010)
  8. Stephen Stein, Communities of Dissent: A History of Alternative Religions in America (2003)
  9. Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience (1644)
  10. John Winthrop, A Short History of the Rise, Reign, and Ruin of the Antinomians, Familists, and Libertines (1644)
Bob Dylan & Joan Baez (credit: SVA Picture Collection)

Bob Dylan & Joan Baez (credit: SVA Picture Collection)

Songs of Dissent (YouTube clips)

  1. Tracy Chapman, Talkin’ bout a Revolution
  2. Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come
  3. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Ohio
  4. Bob Dylan, Masters of War
  5. Dylan, The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  6. Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin
  7. Peter Gabriel, Biko
  8. Marvin Gay, What’s Goin On?
  9. Woody Guthrie, This Land is Your Land
  10. Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit
  11. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Mary Lambert), Same Love 
  12. Barry McGuire, Eve of Destruction (Reply: Barry Sadler, Ballad of the Green Berets)
  13. N.W.A., Fuk Da The Police
  14. Phil Ochs, I Ain’t Marching Anymore
  15. The Plastic Ono Band, Give Peace a Chance
  16. Public Enemy, Fight the Power
  17. Nina Simome

             Nina Simone

    Rage Against the Machine, Killing in the Name

  18. Pete Seeger sings Woody Guthrie Deportee
  19. Seeger, We Shall Overcome
  20. Nina Simone, Mississippi Goddam
  21. Todd Snider, Ballad of the Kingsmen 
  22. Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth
  23. Buffy St Marie, Universal Soldier
  24. U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday
  25. Suzanne Vega, Luka
  26. The Wailers, Get Up, Stand Up

Last Scheduled FAN #73: “D.C. Circuit strikes down SEC “conflict minerals” rule by 2-1 margin

Next Scheduled FAN #75: September 2, 2015


FAN 69 (First Amendment News) Justice Alito discusses four First Amendment cases in Kristol interview — Free-Speech Jurisprudence Comes into Sharper Focus

“[I]f we lose focus on what is at the core of the free-speech protection by concentrating on . . . peripheral issues, I think, there’s a real danger that our free-speech cases will go off in a bad direction.” — Justice Samuel Alito

Recently, Justice Samuel Alito participated in a video-recoreded interview with Bill Kristol. In the “Conversations with Bill Kristol” program the Justice discussed his legal education and the workings of the Supreme Court. He also discussed four First Amendment free-expression cases: United States v. Stevens (2010), Snyder v. Phelps (2011), United States v. Alvarez (2012), and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010).

Below are some excerpts I transcribed from the video-recorded interview in which Justice Alito discussed the First Amendment, this in response to questions posed to him by Mr. Kristol. I have added captions to the transcript and have edited it in places as well. (There is also a transcript of the entire interview  (login required) on the “Conversations with Bill Kristol website.)    

Following the exchange between the Justice and Mr. Kristol, I added some preliminary commentaries on what Justice Alito’s remarks may suggest about his larger First Amendment jurisprudence.  

Finally, I ended with some general information about Justice Alito and his free-speech jurisprudence.  

The Stevens Case

Justice Alito on "Conversations with Bill Kristol"

Justice Alito on “Conversations with Bill Kristol”

The Justice’s discussion of Stevens — the videoing of animal cruelty case — was largely descriptive. What concerned Justice Alito about the case the fact that it was “virtually impossible to find out who was [killing the animals that were being filmed]. The physical activity could be made illegal,” he noted. “[N]o one questions that . . . you could have a law against animal cruelty. Can you have a law that prohibits the creation of these videos without which the animal cruelty would not take place?”

Because of overbreadth problems, seven Justices voted to strike down the law on First Amendment grounds while Justice Alito felt otherwise and dissented.

The Phelps Case

Here, too, much of the discussion of Phelps — the military funerals protest case — was descriptive. What concerned the Justice was the fact that in “this particular case the . . .  [protesters] had placards that said horrible things about [the soldier being buried] . . . It was very distressing to the family members, who were in attendance.”

“So they were sued under a very well-established tort that goes back to the nineteenth century — the intentional infliction of severe emotional distress. And I thought that this tort constituted a reasonable exception to the First Amendment, but my colleagues disagreed about that.”

Bill Kristol

William Kristol

Mr. Kristol: “. . . What about the obvious sort of simple argument that . . . it is a slippery slope, that you cannot curtail speech? That is kind of the argument that the majority made, in one way or  the other, I would say.”

Justice Alito: “Well I think that some members of the majority — this is not based on inside information, this is what I get from reading the opinion — I think that there are those who would support the majority decision in both those cases for exactly that reason. So if we say, even in these outrageous situations, ‘we will not tolerate any abridgment of freedom of speech,’ then when something comes along that I would regard, and I think our cases would regard as really being at the core of the free-speech protection, these decisions provide a guarantee, or they provide a wall of proaction against a bad decision in those areas. If I really believed that to be the case, I might think it was an appropriate tradeoff. I don’t think that’s the case. I think that judges who are inclined to make a bad decision, an anti-free speech decision in a case involving core political speech, will find a way of getting around these little cases.”

The Alvarez Case

Justice Alito: “So what I think has been going on in those two cases and another one where I was in dissent, this time not by myself, in United States v. Alvarez, which had to do with the constitutionality of a statute passed by Congress called ‘The Stolen Valor Act,’ [which] prohibited a false claim of having received a military medal. . . .”

Mr. Kristol: “Which was happening a lot at the time.”

Justice Alito: “It was happening a lot. People were making up, you know, claiming to have won the Congressional Medal of Honor . . . “

Reflecting on StevensPhelps and Alvarez, Justice Alito stressed that “those cases involve a diversion, I think, of attention from the core, from what is most important about the guarantee of freedom of speech.”

He then developed that point as noted below.

Protecting Core Political Speech

Justice Alito: “I think freedom of speech protects and serves many purposes, but I believe, and I think the Court has said that at the core, whatever other purposes it may serve, it is vitally important for democratic self-government. If people cannot debate public issues, if they cannot debate the relative merits of political candidates, then democracy is basically impossible. So I think that is the core of the protection. These cases involving . . . depictions of animal cruelty, the protest at military funerals, [and] falsely claiming to have won the Congressional Medal of Honor don’t involve anything like that.”

“And if we lose focus on what is at the core of the free-speech protection by concentrating on these peripheral issues, I think, there’s a real danger that our free-speech cases will go off in a bad direction. In the cases that we’ve had that I think involve core free speech. . . the chief example that I would give from my time on the Court is the Citizens United case. . . . [N[ow that [case] came out five to four . . . . Citizens United, I think, is core political speech. It is a video about a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. If that’s not protected by First Amendment free speech, by the First Amendment free speech guarantee, I don’t know what is.”

“So on things that are at the core, the Court has been shakier than it has been on these things that are at the periphery.”

Mr. Kristol: “So the argument that protecting the periphery helps protect the core doesn’t seem to hold in this case.”

Justice Alito: “I don’t think it works.”

Mr. Kristol: “You also make the argument, as I recall, in at least one or two of those three dissents, you make more of a positive argument for the virtues, for the right, for . . . the ability of the community to draw certain boundaries around civility or civilized behavior almost, mostly in the case of the soldiers’ funerals or all of them really, the animal cruelty [and the] lying [case]. Those are all things a community would have a reasonable interest in discouraging, to say the least.”

Justice Alito: “I think that’s true. And I think that’s appropriate in cases that don’t involve political speech. I would not make the same argument in a case . . . involving political speech. I thought all of them were cabined by specific rules, very reasonable rules. So in the animal cruelty case, I thought that was very similar to the rationale . . . against child pornography. Which is that you can’t produce child pornography without abusing a child and by stamping out child pornography, or trying to stamp out child pornography, you are attacking the underlying abuse – same thing [holds true] with these crush videos. You couldn’t stamp them out without preventing the creation and the circulation of the videos. . . . I think that kind of an argument is a dangerous argument when you’re talking about political speech. . . .”

The discussion ended with some brief additional comments about hate speech in Europe.

[ht: Tony Mauro]

Commentary Read More


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.



FAN 57 (First Amendment News) Press Group & Others Await Ruling re Release of 1942 Grand Jury Transcripts in Chicago Tribune Case


UnknownThat is the caption in the petition titled In re Petition of Elliot Carlson, et al, which was filed on November 18, 2014 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The judging presiding over the case is Chief Judge Ruben Castillo. In addition to the lead petitioner, the other parties in the case are: the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Historical Association, the National Security Archive, the Naval Historical Foundation, the Naval Institute Press, the Organization of American Historians, and the Society for Military History.

Stanley Johnston & Jay Loy Maloney

Stanley Johnston & J. Loy Maloney of the Tribune

The controversy traces back to a June 7, 1942 front-page story the Chicago Tribune ran by its war correspondent Stanley Johnston. The piece was titled “Navy Had Word of Jap Plan to Strike at Sea.” Citing “reliable sources in naval intelligence,” the Johnston story reported that the U.S. Navy had detailed information concerning the Japanese military’s plan to attack U.S. forces at Midway several days in advance of that battle.

The government believed that the story was based on a classified Navy dispatch. More importantly, it believed that the story revealed a closely-held secret, namely, that the Navy had cracked the radio code used by the Japanese navy to encrypt communications. Outraged by the apparent “leak,” officials in the FDR Administration pressed for the prosecution of the reporter and his paper. Or as the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune put it in 2014: “The response was ferocious. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s instinct was to have Marines occupy Tribune Tower. Navy Secretary Frank Knox insisted that U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle prosecute Tribune journalists for hurting national security.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 12.08.46 PM

The Justice Department convened a grand jury in August of 1942 to investigate whether Johnston and his managing editor, J. Loy Maloney, along with the Tribune had violated the Espionage Act of 1917. On August 19, 1942, the grand jury declined to issue any indictments.

Tribune_The  CitadelJubilant over its victory, the Tribune ran a front-page cartoon the next day — the cartoon depicted the Tribune Tower as a citadel for press freedom.

It is against that backdrop that Elliot Carlson (a naval historian) and his fellow petitioners requested the release of the transcripts of the testimony of all 13 witnesses who testified before the grand jury in connection with the Tribune investigation. The transcripts are apparently stored at a National Archives repository in College Park, MD (enclosures to Serials 1 through 11 for File Number 146-7-23-25).

In his declaration to the court, Carlson maintained that “[r]eleasing the grand jury testimony will fill in important gaps in the existing historical record and will provide valuable perspective on the relationship between the government and the press during national security crises – a subject that has never been more relevant. Historians and writers still disagree would the details of the Tribune scandal . . . but the grand jury testimony could settle the dispute.”

Government Opposes Release of 1942 Transcripts

On December 24, 2014, the government filed its response in opposition to the release of the grand jury transcripts. Its opposition was based on three basic arguments:

  1. “No Statute or Rule Provides for Release of Grand Jury Information for Reasons of Historical Interest”
  2. “Second Circuit Law Recognizing Historical Significance as a Special Circumstance Justifying Disclosure Is Flawed and Contrary to the Weight of  Supreme Court Jurisprudence,” and
  3. “The Supreme Court’s Rulemaking Body Has Rejected an Amendment to Rule 6(e) Based on Historical Interest”

In their reply memorandum, the Petitioners advanced two main arguments:

  1. “Courts have discretion to order disclosure of historical grand jury material in appropriate circumstances pursuant to their inherent authority,” and
  2. “The Coalition has demonstrated that disclosure of the testimony from the 1942 Tribune grand jury investigation is a proper exercise of this Court’s discretion.”

Lawyer for Petitioners: Brendan J. Healey

 Lawyer for the Government: Elizabeth J. Shapiro (U.S. Department of Justice)

A ruling is expected sometime within the next two months.

→ See also Editorial, “Breaking the code on a Chicago mystery from WWII,” Chicago Tribune, November 21, 2014

For some historical background, see:

  1. Lloyd Wendt, Chicago Tribune: The Rise of a Great American Newspaper (1979), pp. 627-636
  2. Michael S. Sweeney & Patrick S. Washburn, “‘Aint Justice Wonderful’: The Chicago Tribune’s Battle of Midway Story and the Government’s Attempt at an Espionage Act Indictment in 1942,” Journalism & Communication Monographs December 5, 2013 (updated 2014)
  3. Dina Green, “Communication Intelligence and the Freedom of the Press. The Chicago Tribune’s Battle of Midway Dispatch and the Breaking of the Japanese Naval Code,” Journal of Contemporary History (1981)

ht: Katie Townsend

*  *  *  *

Muzzle Awards ‘Honor’ First Amendment Violators

This from a news report in The Daily Progress: “The administration of a major university, the mayor of Peoria, Illinois, and an Alabama circuit judge are among this year’s recipients of the Jefferson Muzzle awards, given to people or institutions accused of stifling freedom of speech in the United States. Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression . . . gives out the awards each year.”

Those receiving the awards were:

  1. Peoria, Illinois Mayor Jim Ardis
  2. Bergen Community College (NJ)
  3. Mora Co., New Mexico Board of Commissioners
  4. Bedford Co., Pennsylvania District Attorney Bill Higgins
  5. Alabama Circuit Court Judge Claud D. Neilson
  6. The Indiana Department of Corrections
  7. Asnuntuck Community College (CT)
  8. The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

NB: Links are to stories re the reasons for bestowing the awards.

Video of Balkin-Redish Exchange Posted  Read More


Looking Back — Francis Biddle, Censorship & the “Biddle List”

War threatens all civil rights. Francis Biddle, December 15, 1941

I was reading Sam Walker’s Today in Civil Liberties History (a daily historical calendar — quite good!) when I came upon this entry for today, circa April 14, 1942:

Attorney General Biddle OKs Censoring Father Coughlin’s Social Justice Magazine

“In a letter to Postmaster General Frank Walker on this day, Attorney General Francis Biddle (1886-1968) proposed banning the magazine Social Justice from the mails. Social Justice was the publication of Father Charles Coughlin, a Catholic priest in the Detroit area, who in the late 1930s became a public, ultra-conservative critic of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

Unknown“When the U.S. entered World War II, Coughlin became a critic of the war effort, in part because he was anti-Semitic. Coughlin’s criticisms were the reasons for Biddle’s censorship proposal. In the end, the Post Office did bar Social Justice from the mails. It was one of the relatively rare instances of suppression of dissent during World War II . . . .” (See Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 15, 1942 story here.)

Biddle, of course, was the one who had been a secretary to Justice Holmes (1911-1912), assistant to the U.S. Attorney (E-Dist., PA), chairman of the NLRB (1934-35), Third Circuit Judge (1939-1940), U.S. Solicitor General (1940), U.S. Attorney General (1941-45), and later a judge on the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (1945-1946) (Herbert Wechsler served as his main assistant), among other things. Biddle also wrote a biography of Holmes — Mr. Justice Holmes (1942), among other books.

Francis Biddle

Francis Biddle

One more biographical note: he was a half second cousin four times removed of James Madison.

As recounted in a Wikipedia entry, “[d]uring World War II Biddle used the Espionage Act of 1917 to attempt to shut down ‘vermin publications.’ This included Father Coughlin’s publication entitled Social Justice. Biddle has also been ‘credited’ with the creation of what became known later as the ‘Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations.’ In fact, this list was originally known as ‘The Biddle List.'”

“In the Biddle List, eleven front groups originating in the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) were singled out as being ‘subversive’ and under the control of the Soviet Union. Unlike the later, more infamous Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations, which contained both left and right-wing organizations, the Biddle List contained only left-wing organizations as well as civil rights organizations tied to the CPUSA.”

Biddle List (1941): 

Contrast Francis Biddle, Remarks at the Dedication of the Thomas Jefferson Room, Library of Congress, December 15, 1941, on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Here is an excerpt from those remarks:

War threatens all civil rights; and although we have fought wars before, and ourpersonal freedoms have survived, there have been periods of gross abuse, when hysteria and hate and fear ran high, and when minorities were unlawfully and cruelly abused. Every man who cares about freedom, about a government by law — ­and all freedom is based on fair administration of the law — must fight for it for the other man with whom he disagrees, for the right of the minority, for the chance for the underprivileged with the same passion of insistence as he claims for his own rights. If we care about democracy, we must care about it as a reality for others as well as for ourselves; yes, for aliens, for Germans, for Italians, for Japanese, for those who are vdth us as well as those who are against us: For the Bill of Rights protects not only American citizensbut all hunlan beings who live on our American soil, under our American flag. The rights of Anglo-Saxons, of Jews, of Catholics, of negroes, of Slavs, Indians — all are alike before the law. And this we must remember and sustain — ­ that is if we really love justice, and really hate the bayonet and the whip and the gun, and the whole Gestapo method as a way of handling human beings.

As far as I can tell, there has been no book-length biography of Francis Biddle, which strikes me as odd. Such a biography is long overdue and Biddle is certainly deserving of one.


FAN 52 (First Amendment News) Corn-Revere signs with Cambridge to do Censorship Book

Bob Corn-Revere

Bob Corn-Revere

Noted First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere will soon rejoin the ranks of practicing free speech lawyers who have written books on the subject. The never-tiring lawyer has just signed a contract with Cambridge University Press to do a book entitled The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder: The First Amendment and the Censor’s Dilemma.

The book will cover a variety of censorship-related topics — from the life and times of Anthony Comstock (1844-1915) to indecency regulations and campus speech codes and much more. The manuscript should be completed in a year or so.      

Anthony Comstock

Anthony Comstock

In 1999 Mr. Corn-Revere (a former legal advisor to an FCC Commissioner) co-authored Modern Communications Law (with Harvey Zuckman & Robert Frieden), and in 1997 edited Rationales & Rationalizations: Regulating the Electronic Media  (introduction by Senator Patrick Leahy).

In 2005 he prepared a report for the First Amendment Center entitled Implementing a Flag-Desecration Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

In 2003 he successfully petitioned the governor of New York to posthumously pardon the comedian Lenny Bruce (the first and only such pardon in the history of New York).

* * * *

Other practicing lawyers who have edited or authored books (other than casebooks) on free speech and related topics include:

  1. Floyd Abrams: Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment (2005) & Friend of the Court: On the Front Lines with the First Amendment (2012)

    James Goodale

    James Goodale

  2. James C. Goodale: Fighting for the Press (2013), & Rob Frieden, All About Cable and Broadband (2014)
  3. Lee Levine (and Stephen Wermiel): The Progeny: Justice William Brennan’s Fight to Preserve the Legacy of New York Times v. Sullivan (2014)
  4. Mike Goodwin: Cyber Rights: Defending Free speech in the Digital Age (2003)
  5. Marjorie Heins, Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge (2013), and Not in Front of the Children: ‘Indecency’, Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth (2001), and Sex, Sin and Blasphemy: A Guide to America’s Censorship Wars (1993)
  6. Jonathan Emord, Freedom, Technology, and the First Amendment (1991) & Global Censorship of Health Information (2010)
  7. John F. Wirenius, First Amendment, First Principles: Verbal Acts & Freedom of Speech (2000)
  8. Edward J. Cleary: Beyond the Burning Cross: A Landmark Case of Race, Censorship, and the First Amendment (1995)

    Cameron DeVore

    Cameron DeVore

  9. Bruce Sanford: Sanford’s Synopsis of Libel and Privacy (1991) & Don’t Shoot the Messenger: How our Growing Hatred of the Media Threatens Free Speech for All of Us (1999) & The First Amendment Book (1991) (with Robert J. Wagman)
  10. Stephen Brody & Bruce Johnson: Advertising and Commercial Speech, A First Amendment Guide (2004-2014) (originally by P. Cameron DeVore and Robert Sack)
  11. Patrick M. Garry, Scrambling for Protection: The New Media and the First Amendment (1994)
  12. Robert Sack, Libel, Slander, and Related Problems (1997) (with Sandra S. Baron) (since revised while RS was a sitting judge)

    Martin Garbus

    Martin Garbus

  13. Martin Garbus: Tough Talk: How I Fought for Writers, Comics, Bigots, and the American Way (2010)
  14. David O. Stewart, Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America (2015)
  15. William Bennet Turner: Figures of Speech: First Amendment Heroes and Villains (2011) (foreword by Anthony Lewis)
  16. Elliott C. Rothenberg, The Taming of the Press: Cohen v. Cowles Media Company (1999)
  17. Leon Friedman, editor, Obscenity: The Complete Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court in Major Obscenity Cases (1970)
  18. Richard Kuh: Foolish Figleaves: Pornography in and out of Court (1968)
  19. Albert B. Gerber, Sex, Pornography and Justice (1965)
  20. Elmer Gertz: Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc: The Story of a Landmark Libel Case (1992) & Henry Miller Years of Trial and Triumph, 1962-1964: The Correspondence of Henry Miller and Elmer Gertz (editor, 1978)
  21. J.W. Ehrlich: Howl of the Censor (1961)
  22. Charles Rembar: The End of Obscenity(1968)

    Morris Ernst

    Morris Ernst

  23. Margaret C. Jasper, The Law of Obscenity and Pornography (2011)
  24. Morris L. Ernst, To the Pure: A Study of Obscenity and the Censor (1928), The First Freedom (1948), and Morris L. Ernst & Alan U. Schwartz: Censorship: The Search For The Obscene (1965)
  25. Lamar T. Beman, editor, Censorship of Speech and the Press (1930)
  26. Walter Nelles, editor, Espionage Act Cases with Certain Others on Related Points — New Law in Making As to Criminal Utterance in War-time (1918)
  27. Theodore Schroeder: Free Speech for Radicals (1916) (& various other books)
  28. Tunis Wortman, A Treatise Concerning Political Inquiry and the Liberty of the Press (1800)

Upcoming Memorial Service for Herald Price Fahringer 

A memorial service for Herald Price Fahringer (1927-2015), a criminal defense and free-speech lawyer, will be held on Saturday, March 28th at 2 p.m. at the Surrogate’s Court, 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his honor to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Foundation for Criminal Justice at:  http://nacdl.us/heraldpricefahringe.

Please contact erica.dubno@fahringerlaw.com if you have any questions.

Vintage Volokh — Professor Files Brief in 4th Circuit Government Employee Firing Case Read More


FAN 51.4 (First Amendment News) FCC Ruling: Broadband Internet Providers Have no First Amendment Rights re Access Services

On March 12, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission issued a 400-page ruling entitled “Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order.”

UnknownBy the Commission: Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel issuing separate statements; Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly dissenting and issuing separate statements.

Here are a few First Amendment related excerpts from the FCC ruling and order:

  1. Benefit to Public: “Informed by the views of nearly 4 million commenters, our staff-led roundtables, numerous ex parte presentations, meetings with individual Commissioners and staff, and more, our decision today—once and for all—puts into place strong, sustainable rules, grounded in multiple sources of our legal authority, to ensure that Americans reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an open Internet today and into the future.”
  2. Mere Transmission: “When engaged in broadband Internet access services, broadband providers are not speakers, but rather serve as conduits for the speech of others. The manner in which broadband providers operate their networks does not rise to the level of speech protected by the First Amendment. As telecommunications services, broadband Internet access services, by definition, involve transmission of network users’ speech without change in form or content, so open Internet rules do not implicate providers’ free speech rights. And even if broadband providers were considered speakers with respect to these services, the rules we adopt today are tailored to an important government interest—protecting and promoting the open Internet and the virtuous cycle of broadband deployment—so as to ensure they would survive intermediate scrutiny.”
  3. No Speaker Status: “Claiming free speech protections under the First Amendment necessarily involves demonstrating status as a speaker—absent speech, such rights do not attach.”
  4. Limited to Access Services: “[T]he free speech interests we advance today do not inhere in broadband providers with respect to their provision of broadband Internet access services.”
  5. Cable Distinguished: “[B]broadband is not subject to the same limited carriage decisions that characterize cable systems—the Internet was designed as a decentralized ‘network of networks’ which is capable of delivering an unlimited variety of content, as chosen by the end user.”
  6. Content Neutral“Even if open Internet rules were construed to implicate broadband providers’ rights as speakers, our rules would not violate the First Amendment because they would be considered content-neutral regulations which easily satisfy intermediate scrutiny. In determining whether a regulation is content-based or content-neutral, the ‘principal inquiry . . . is whether the government adopted a regulation of speech because of [agreement or] disagreement with the message it conveys.'”
  7. Narrowly Tailored: “[T]he rules here are sufficiently tailored to accomplish these government interests. The effect on speech imposed by these rules is minimal.
  8. Citizens United Distinguished: “Our rules governing the practices of broadband providers differ markedly from the statutory restrictions on political speech at issue in Citizens United. Our rules do not impact core political speech, where the ‘First Amendment has its fullest and most urgent application.’ By contrast, the open Internet rules apply only to the provision of broadband services in a commercial context, so reliance on the strict scrutiny standards applied in Citizens United is inapt.”
  9. Compelled Disclosure: “The disclosure requirements adopted as a part of our transparency rule also fall well within the confines of the First Amendment. . . . The Supreme Court has made plain in Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of Supreme Court of Ohio that the government has broad discretion in requiring the disclosure of information to prevent consumer deception and ensure complete information in the marketplace.”