Below the Fold

Discrimination or Free Speech? What’s At Stake in the Wedding Cake Conflict

Discrimination or Free Speech? What’s At Stake in the Wedding Cake Conflict

Jack C. Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakeland, Colorado, refused to design and create a wedding cake for a celebration of a same-sex marriage. He claims that creation of the cake is artistic expression protected by the First Amendment’s free speech and free exercise of religion clause. But the same-sex couple and Colorado argue that Phillips’ work on the cake is not expressive conduct according to the law and that the state has a significant interest in preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation. What will the Supreme Court say when it hears the case?

April 2, 2018 Artistic Speech, Below the Fold, Speech
Are Student Walkouts Protected By the First Amendment?

Are Student Walkouts Protected By the First Amendment?

After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students around the country quickly began to protest gun violence. One way gaining much attention: student walkouts. School administrators have responded both positively and negatively to these demonstrations. Now various advocacy groups are calling for  a national walkout for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. March 14 in solidarity with the victims of the Florida tragedy. Are these protests protected by the First Amendment?

March 29, 2018 Assembly, Below the Fold, Speech
Catherine Ross on Student Walkouts: “What is at stake in teaching young people how to live liberty—particularly how to exercise their expressive rights—is nothing less than the future of our democracy.”

Catherine Ross on Student Walkouts: “What is at stake in teaching young people how to live liberty—particularly how to exercise their expressive rights—is nothing less than the future of our democracy.”

Our guest writer and constitutional law scholar, Catherine Ross, speaks out about the student protests rocking the nation from the March 14 walkouts to the March for our Our Lives movement and looking ahead to the next planned protests on April 20th. Her book, Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights, excerpted on FAW looks at important free speech issues relevant to today’s movement.

March 29, 2018 Assembly, Below the Fold, Speech
President Trump’s Plans for Libel Laws

President Trump’s Plans for Libel Laws

President Trump and his team want to ‘open up’ libel laws. The goal: to make it easier to sue media organizations for unfavorable coverage. But there is little that the President can actually do to change the libel laws. There is no federal law on libel. State laws control libel, and all such laws are subject to stringent First Amendment protections for the press and other speakers that the Supreme Court has imposed through cases such as the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan decision in 1964. However, threats to loosen the libel laws is noteworthy as part of a larger effort to criticize the press and attack its credibility.

March 21, 2018 Below the Fold, Libel
The Limits of Transparency and FOIA Under Trump

The Limits of Transparency and FOIA Under Trump

Transparency is often an attractive buzzword for new administrations, but following through on open access has proven difficult. President Obama’s record on transparency and the federal  Freedom of Information Act was less than stellar. In the opening months of his term, President Trump has shown a similar wariness in allowing private citizens to access public records. Activists are challenging this resistance on the streets and in the courts. As we ready for Sunshine Week 2018, we look at the the successes and setbacks of FOIA.

March 14, 2018 Below the Fold, FOIA, News Gathering
The Alarming Rise in Verbal and Physical Threats to the Press

The Alarming Rise in Verbal and Physical Threats to the Press

Many presidents have had contentious relationships with the press. President John Adams’ 1798 Sedition Act made publishing anything critical of the government illegal, President Theodore Roosevelt tried to sue the press for unfavorable coverage and other leaders have tried to control the flow of information. However, the animosity towards the press fostered by President Donald Trump many believe is unprecedented.

March 14, 2018 Below the Fold, Leaks, Threats
Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer, Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center of Newseum Institute

Gene Policinski Commentary: The White House is Wrong. A Free Press Is ‘The People’

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Gene Policinski, originally published this commentary on March 8, 2018, in the Austin American-Statesman, and then Newseum blog, and has given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint.   _________________________________________________________________________________ An angry U.S. president feels hounded by the news media and is infuriated and discouraged with the intense and personal criticism of his domestic and international policies. I[Read More…]

March 12, 2018 Access, Below the Fold, Press
United States Supreme Court Building

Knight First Amendment Institute: From the Heckler’s Veto to the Provocateur’s Privilege

Reprinted with Permission From Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University Emerging Threats series invites leading thinkers to identify and grapple with newly arising or intensifying structural threats to the system of free expression. “It is now widely believed,” Frederick Schauer observes in a new essay, “that restricting the speaker on account of the actual or predicted hostile and potentially violent reaction[Read More…]

March 2, 2018 Below the Fold, Offensive Speech, Speech
Ballard Spahr: Arizona Court of Appeals Declares Trial Court’s Media Restrictions Unconstitutional

Ballard Spahr: Arizona Court of Appeals Declares Trial Court’s Media Restrictions Unconstitutional

Reprinted with Permission from Ballard Spahr The Arizona Court of Appeals issued a unanimous opinion late last month reaffirming the strict requirements for limiting the media’s ability to disseminate public information and strongly cautioning trial courts against imposing prior restraints in all but the most exceptional circumstances. The case arose as a result of the high-profile capital murder trial of John Michael[Read More…]

February 27, 2018 Below the Fold, Prior Restraints
J3NE4D Ohio, USA. 19th Apr, 2017. Robert Murray, the 77-year-old founder and CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, talks in his office in St. Clairsville in Ohio, United States, 19 April 2017. The coal industry in the state has set its hopes on president Donald Trump and fracking. Photo: Andreas Hoenig/dpa/Alamy Live News

Defamation Suit By Coal Baron Against John Oliver Dismissed

Coal magnate Robert Murray has a long history of suing the media – at least nine organizations at last count. He targeted HBO’s John Oliver and The New York Times claiming that both misrepresented safety at his coal mines and attacked him personally. He even asked for an emergency “gag order” against rebroadcast of Oliver’s segment arguing it was hurting business and threatening employees. A federal judge ruled that Murray’s case against Oliver should proceed in state court. But after the case was remanded,HBO and Partially Important Productions submitted motions to dismiss which were granted. Murray intends to appeal.

February 25, 2018 Below the Fold, Libel, Privacy, Speech