Posts Tagged ‘free speech’

Bernie Sanders: I’ll make justices pledge

“Sen. Sanders goes one step further. He would require that nominees publicly commit to case outcomes…. Although under President Sanders’ proposal judicial impartiality in fact and in appearance will suffer, there is a bright side. If President Sanders filled a majority of seats on the Court with pre-committed Justices, lawyers before the Court could significantly reduce the time and effort expended on the argument sections of their briefs.” [Raymond McKoski, Legal Ethics Forum]

Note also that Sanders managed to find a position on Citizens United worse than Hillary Clinton’s “Banning a critical movie about me should’ve been OK.”

Because only Truth has rights

Scientists’ “Letter To President Obama: Investigate Deniers Under RICO” is exactly what it sounds like [Greg Laden, ScienceBlogs] We earlier noted, as a step toward attaching legal consequences to unwanted advocacy, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) op-ed “urg[ing] the U.S. Department of Justice to consider filing a racketeering suit against the oil and coal industries for having promoted wrongful thinking on climate change, with the activities of ‘conservative policy’ groups an apparent target of the investigation as well,” as well as Gawker’s call to “arrest climate change deniers.”

P.S. For more on the widely publicized book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, which condemns various scientists said to be too skeptical of the factual basis for regulation, see links gathered by Judith Curry, including this Reiner Grundmann review. Yet more: “I have no idea how it affects the First Amendment” says Vermont scientist who backs probe of wrongful advocacy [Bruce Parker/Watchdog, quotes me]

Free speech roundup

  • “Denver DA charges man with tampering for handing out jury nullification flyers” [Denver Post, earlier New York case covered here, here, here, etc.] More: Tim Lynch, Cato.
  • Occupational licensure vs. the First Amendment: Texas regulators seek to shutter doc’s veterinary advice website [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • Fired for waving rebel flag? Unlikely to raise a First Amendment issue unless you work for the government, or it twisted your employer’s arm [Huntsville (Ala.) Times, Daniel Schwartz]
  • “Twitter joke thieves are getting DMCA takedowns” [BoingBoing]
  • A reminder of Gawker’s jaw-droppingly bad stuff on freedom of speech (“Arrest Climate Change Deniers”) [Coyote, related]
  • Canadian lawyer/journalist Ezra Levant facing discipline proceeding “for being disrespectful towards a government agency” [Financial Post, earlier]
  • “‘Shouting fire in a theater’: The life and times of constitutional law’s most enduring analogy” [Carlton Larson via Eugene Volokh, also Christopher Hitchens on the analogy]

Free speech roundup

  • Eugene Volokh weighs in again on Oregon Sweet Cakes case, agrees with my view that agency’s order against Melissa and Aaron Klein’s speech is overbroad;
  • Canada: “Ruling in Twitter harassment trial could have enormous fallout for free speech” [Christie Blatchford/National Post, earlier]
  • Also in Canada: Law Society of Alberta cites controversial-speech veteran Ezra Levant, a lawyer, over column criticizing human rights commission [National Post]
  • “Lawyer Can’t Unmask Anonymous Critic on Avvo, Court Rules” [Robert Ambrogi]
  • “Couple ordered to pay $280K for ‘frivolous’ lawsuit against Hoboken bloggers, judge says” [Jersey Journal via @NJCivilJustice]
  • Las Vegas lawyer’s libel suit provokes laughs but there’s a serious point at stake [Adam Steinbaugh, Popehat]
  • “Freedom will not bow to bloody attacks”: legislature in Iceland repeals blasphemy law in response to Paris massacre [IB Times] But Charlie Hebdo itself, in Paris, says it will run no more prophet Muhammad cartoons [WaPo and more: Michael Moynihan, Politico Europe]

Ida Wells, free speech, and the rule of law

I write at Cato about the accomplishments of Ida Wells (1862-1931), who after being born into slavery in Mississippi became the leading voice documenting the horrors of lynch law in late nineteenth century America, as well as a free speech heroine (a mob in Memphis attacked and destroyed her printing press). Wells is also the subject of today’s Google Doodle. And as I learned from Nicholas Johnson’s post last year at Volokh, she was a notable figure in the history of the Second Amendment as well.

Oregon: bakers’ statements to national media were “unlawful”

Readers who follow the battles over forfeiture law may recall the recent case in which a North Carolina convenience store owner from whom the government had seized $107,000 without any showing of wrongdoing decided to fight the case in the press as well as in court, backed by the Institute for Justice. Lyndon McLellan’s decision to go public with the dispute drew a menacing letter from a federal prosecutor about the publicity the case had been getting:

“Your client needs to resolve this or litigate it,” Mr. West wrote. “But publicity about it doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency.” He concluded with a settlement offer in which the government would keep half the money.

That case ended happily, but the problem is much broader: many individuals and businesses fear that if they seek out favorable media coverage about their battle with the government, the government will find a way to retaliate, either informally in settlement negotiations or by finding new charges to throw against them.

That such fears might not be without foundation is illustrated by last week’s widely publicized Oregon cake ruling, in which a Gresham, Oregon couple was ordered to pay $135,000 in emotional-distress damages for having refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. Aside from the ruling’s other objectionable elements, the state labor commissioner ruled it “unlawful” for the couple to have given national media interviews in which they expressed sentiments like “we can see this becoming an issue and we have to stand firm.” Taking advantage of an exception in free speech law in which courts have found that the First Amendment does not protect declarations of future intent to engage in unlawful discrimination, the state argued – and its commissioner agreed – that the “stand firm” remark along with several similarly general comments rallying supporters were together “unlawful.”

That ought to bother anyone who cares about free speech. I’ve got a piece up at, my first there, exploring the question in more detail. Check it out [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty].

Similarly today: Ken at Popehat.

Free speech roundup

Free speech roundup

  • Weirdly, Europe is more willing to legislate against pro-ISIS views than openly to argue against them [Nick Cohen]
  • City of Inglewood, Calif. sues for copyright infringement over videos by critic of Mayor Butts [CBS L.A., Volokh, Paul Alan Levy]
  • “Department Of Justice Uses Grand Jury Subpoena To Identify Anonymous Commenters on a Silk Road Post at” [Ken White/Popehat, Wired, Scott Greenfield]
  • Bans on the singing of sectarian songs, as in the Scotland case mentioned here recently, are perhaps less surprisingly also a part of law in Northern Ireland [Belfast Telegraph, BBC] UK government “now arresting and even jailing people simply for speaking their minds” [Brendan O’Neill]
  • Broad “coalition of free speech, web publishing, and civil liberties advocates” oppose provisions in anti-“trafficking” bill creating criminal liability for classified ad sites; Senate passes bill anyway by 99-0 margin [Elizabeth Nolan Brown; more from Brown on bill (“What, you mean grown women AREN’T being abducted into sex slavery at Hobby Lobby stores in Oklahoma?” — @mattwelch), yet more on trafficking-panic numbers]
  • Group libel laws, though approved in the 1952 case Beauharnais v. Illinois, are now widely regarded as no longer good law, but a Montana prosecutor doesn’t seem aware of that [Volokh] No, let’s not redefine “incitement” so as to allow the banning of more speech [Volokh]
  • Supreme Court’s ruling in Elonis, the “true threats on Facebook” case, was speech-protective but minimalist [Ilya Shapiro, Orin Kerr, Ken White, Eugene Volokh]