FAN 91 (First Amendment News) 2015: The Year in Review, including “the best of”

This is the 50th FAN post for this year. The others are listed below by month. Also below are some highlights of the past year along with a few “best ofs” of 2015:

Supreme Court: The Court decided four First Amendment free speech cases:

  1. Elonis v. United States (argue: 12-1-14 / decided: June 1, 2015) (8-1 per Roberts) (statutory-based ruling)
  2. Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar (argued: Jan. 20, 2015 / decided: April 29, 2015) (5-4 per Roberts)
  3. Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans (argued 3-23-15 / decided 6-18-15) (5-4 per Breyer)
  4. Reed v. Town of Gilbert (argued 1-12-15 / decided 6-18-15) (9-0 per Thomas)

The biggest surprise was the Chief Justice’s vote in William-Yulee followed by Justice Thomas’ vote in Walker.  Speaking of Justice Thomas, his majority opinion in Reed is likely to be the most important free speech case of the 2014-2015 Term.

Biggest First Amendment issue of 2015: Campus free-speech controversy

RetirementsLaura W. Murphy, the ACLU’s Washington legislative director, retired as did Dave Fidanque of the ACLU of Oregon.

Deaths: We had our losses in 2015: Al Bendich, the ACLU lawyer who represented both Lenny Bruce and Lawrence Ferlinghetti died as did Herald Price Fahringer, a noted criminal defense lawyer who did much to defend the cause of free speech.

Tweeting Free Speech: The Volokh Conspiracy went over to the Twitter side in 2015: @VolokhSpeech

MonumentalMobile Monument to the First Amendment (Thomas Jefferson Center)

The First Amendment & The Best of 2015

Best Supreme Court opinion: Reed v. Town of Gilbert

→ Best Supreme cert. petition: Paul M. Smith & Alonzo Wickers, IV (see here)

Best Supreme Court amicus brief: Ilya Shapiro & Robert Corn Revere (see here)

 Best lower court opinions: In re Simon Shiao Tam (Ct. App. Fed. Cir.) and v. Dart (7th Cir.)

Best state high court opinion: City of Keene v. Cleaveland, et al (N.H.)

Best First Amendment champions: Megan Kelly and Tim Tai

 Best group defending First Amendment rights: FIRE

→ Best report: “After-Action Assessment of the Police Response to the August 2014 Demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri

 Best speech: Floyd Abrams, “Liberty is Liberty

Best newspaper article: Adam Liptak, “Court’s Free-Speech Expansion Has Far-Reaching Consequences,” New York Times

 Best interview: Bill Kristol’s interview with Justice Samuel Alito

 Best book: Catherine Ross, Lessons in Censorship: How Schools & Courts Subvert Students First Amendment Rights (see review here)

Best law review article: Eugene Volokh, “Gruesome Speech,” Cornell Law Review 

→ Best commentary: Amanda Shanor & Robert Post, “Adam Smith’s First Amendment,” Harvard Law Review Forum

 Best op-ed: Geoffrey Stone, “ISIS, Fear, and the Freedom of Speech,” Huffington Post (see here also)

→ FAN Posts for 2015 ← 


FAN 91: 2015: The Year in Review (Dec. 30)

FAN 90: Law Professors Urge Justices to Honor Stare Decisis in Union 1-A case (Dec. 23)

FAN 89: Corn-Revere Brings 1-A Challenge Against “Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation” Act (Dec. 16)

FAN 88: Paul Clement Files Brief in 11th Circuit Prison News Case (Dec. 9)

FAN 87: Sunstein Urges Revising Holmes’s C&P Test in Our Terrorist Times (Dec. 2)


FAN 86: Court may rule on occupational-speech petition soon (Nov. 25)

FAN 85: “Is phone sex violent?” — Posner challenges lawyer in online classified advertising case (Nov. 18)

FAN 84: Can newspapers publish truthful information disclosing police officers’ personal information? — Cert. petition pending (Nov. 11)

FAN 83: Paul Smith Files Cert. Petition in Right of Publicity Case (Nov. 4)


FAN 82: Smolla & Abrams to file First Amendment brief in Redskins trademark case (Oct. 28)

FAN 81: Parody Prevails, Copyright Challenge Fails — the Play Goes On (Oct. 14)

FAN 80: Coming Soon: Philippa Strum’s Book on Whitney v. California (Oct. 7)


FAN 79: Conduits & Communication: Is “Mere” Transmission Speech? — Gov. Says No in Net Neutrality Case (Sept. 30)

FAN 78: Alan Garten, Trump’s Lawyer, Threatens “Multi-million dollar” Lawsuit for Attack Ads Against His Client (Sept. 23)

FAN 77: NPR & Other Press Groups Oppose Pentagon’s New “Law of War” Manual (Sept. 16)

FAN 76: Federal Report on Ferguson Identifies First Amendment Concerns (Sept. 9)

FAN 75: Justice Kagan & the future of Abood, the strength of stare decisis, & the relevance of Garcett(Sept. 2)


FAN 74: Summer thoughts on dissent (Aug. 26)

FAN 73: D.C. Circuit strikes down SEC “conflict minerals” rule by 2-1 margin (Aug. 19)

FAN 72: Megyn Kelly — Bold Defender of Free Speech Freedoms (Aug. 12)

FAN 71: Just Released: 2nd ed. of Cogan’s “The Complete Bill of Rights” — 30 New Pages on History of Press & Assembly Clauses (Aug. 5)


FAN 70: 10 Little known or long forgotten facts about the First Amendment (July 29)

FAN 69: Justice Alito discusses four First Amendment cases in Kristol interview — Free-Speech Jurisprudence Comes into Sharper Focus (July 22)

FAN 68: Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to hear “true threats” case (July 15)

FAN 67: En Banc Unanimous Ruling from DC Circuit Upholds Federal Ban on Contributions by Federal Contractors (July 8)

FAN 66: Another money-is-speech controversy — Court agrees to hear public employee union free-speech case (July 1)


FAN 65: Does Justice Thomas believe in a race-hate exception to the First Amendment? (June 24)

FAN 64: More on the Roberts Court & the First Amendment — the Women Justices (June 17)

FAN 63: CJ Roberts: Mr. First Amendment — The Trend Continues (June 10)

FAN 62: Federal Judge Blasts Liberal Assault on the First Amendment (June 3)


FAN 61: Past & Prologue — Ralph Young on the History of Dissent & David Skover on Free Speech in a Robotic Era (May 20)

FAN 60: Mohammed-Cartoon Controversy Continues — Liberals Divided (May 13)

FAN 59: Williams-Yulee — The Ruling Few Expected . . . & the One Few Will Remember (May 6)


FAN 58: Citizen Recordings of Police in Public Places — First Amendment Protection? (April 29)

FAN 57: Press Group & Others Await Ruling re Release of 1942 Grand Jury Transcripts in Chicago Tribune Case (April 22)

FAN 56: Floyd Abrams Signs Contract to do Third Book on Free Speech (April 15)

FAN 55: Another Sign Case Comes to the Court (April 8)

FAN 54: Fourth Circuit Skeptical of Local Panhandling Law . . . Issue Before SCOTUS in Another Case (April 1)


FAN 53: Justice Sotomayor joins in discussion of Burt Neuborne’s New Book (“Madison’s Music”) (March 25)

FAN 52: Corn-Revere signs with Cambridge to do Censorship Book (March 19)

FAN 51: Journalists, Scholars & Others Pay Tribute to Anthony Lewis (March 11)

FAN 50: ACLU’s 2015 Workplan & the First Amendment — Anthony Romero Responds (March 4)


FAN 49: ACLU “2015 Workplan” sets out narrow range of First Amendment Activities (Feb. 25)

FAN 48: The Dangers and Values of Offensive Speech (Feb. 18)

FAN 47: Anniversary Issue: Returning “Home” — Looking Back on Fox v. Washington (1915) (Feb. 11)

FAN 46: The Campaign Against Campaign Finance Laws — Another Law Struck Down (Feb. 4)


FAN 45: Neuborne & Corn-Revere debate judicial campaign solicitation case (Jan. 28)

FAN 44: Citizens United: it was 5 years ago today — 13 First Amendment lawyers & scholars offer differing views (Jan. 21)

FAN 43: The ACLU making (more) First Amendment news (Jan. 14)

FAN 42: Tribute to Al Bendich (1929-2015) — the ACLU lawyer who made the difference in the HOWL & Lenny Bruce cases (Jan. 7)

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