Oral arguments were heard on Monday in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a Supreme Court case in which the plaintiffs are attempting to invoke their First Amendment right to free speech to avoid being compelled to pay their share of the costs of union representation. Summarizing the oral arguments for SCOTUSblog, Amy Howe notes that "public-employee unions are likely very nervous, as the Court’s more conservative Justices appeared ready to overrule the Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and strike down the fees." [more inside]
9th Circuit upholds Los Angeles County law mandating the use of condoms in porn shoots. Decision here. Will this force the porn industry out of Los Angeles? [more inside]
Supreme Court to consider lifting campaign contribution limits. Reversing McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission would allow unlimited individual campaign contributions.
"The question was not so much what the bracelets said but whether school officials used reasonable judgment when they concluded that such apparel was inappropriate and might lead to more egregiously sexual and disruptive displays, all in the name of advocating a cause." Special bonus: The knockers displayed in a Google ad running below the innocent image of a boobie-bracelet-bedecked wrist.
High school student Emma Sullivan posted a tweet disparaging Kansas Governor Sam Brownback while on a field trip to the State Capitol. Brownback's staff called Sullivan's principal and complained. This has not resulted in postive PR for Brownback.
The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has held that recording police officers performing their duties in public is a "clearly established first amendment right". [more inside]
ACLU launches "Spyfiles" to track domestic surveillance. "The American Civil Liberties Union launched a new website Tuesday to track incidents of domestic political surveillance by the government along with a report (PDF) claiming such incidents have increased steadily since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to the report there have been 111 incidents of illegal domestic political surveillance since 9/11 in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The website, Spyfiles, will serve as the ACLU's online home for all news and reports of domestic spying."
Court Affirms Ban on Aiding Groups Tied to Terror. "In a case pitting free speech against national security, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law (PDF) that makes it a crime to provide 'material support' to foreign terrorist organizations, even if the help takes the form of training for peacefully resolving conflicts."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a criticism of Burning Man, LLC's Terms and Conditions, saying that the automatic rights assignment to BMOrg for photos & video taken during the event is "creative lawyering intended to allow the BMO to use the streamlined “notice and takedown” process enshrined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to quickly remove photos from the Internet" and that this is corrosive to our freedom of speech. Burning Man responds.
The Obama Justice Department has released nine legal memos from the Bush administration that assert broad extra-Constitutional powers for the president. The memos assert that both the First and Fourth Amendments may be subordinated to the needs of wartime. [more inside]
Texan judge rules $5 "pole tax" violates First Amendment rights. Further, Judge Scott Jenkins found no evidence to justify the purpose of HB 1751 (PDF), finding the anecdotal link of the patronage of strip clubs with a lack of health insurance and increased sexual assault rates for dancers insufficient, and ordered the state to pay the plaintiffs' legal fees. Activists are already looking to appeal Jenkins' ruling and reenact the tax. (Previously on Metafilter.)
A very big day for the Supreme Court. In Morse v. Fredrick, the Court ruled that a school could suspend a child for holding up a "Bong HiTs for Jesus" banner. (Previous post here). In Hein v. Freedom from Religion, the Court held that taxpayers lacked standing to challenged Faith Based Initiatives (previous discussions). In Wilke v. Robbins, the Court held that land owners do not have Bivens claims if the federal government harasses landowners for easements. In FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, the Court held that the portion of the campaign finance law which had blackout periods before elections on issue advocacy advertising was an unconstitutional restriction of speech (other). This Thursday, the Justices will deliver their last opinions of the term, including a death penalty case and the school assignment cases. (Opinions are .pdfs)
From the guy who brought you the Whitewater scandal and the impeachment of President Clinton for lying about oval antics in the Oral Office, a legal push to make the Supreme Court just say no to "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Ken Starr's petition to the Court [PDF] makes clear that Starr believes this is no laughing matter, but a chance for the Court to make a landmark ruling that will give school adminstrators the power to limit student speech: "This case presents the Court with a much-needed opportunity to resolve a sharp conflict among federal courts (and to eliminate confusion on the part of school boards, administrators, teachers, and students) over whether the First Amendment permits regulation of student speech when such speech is advocating or making light of illegal substances."
SCOTUS strikes down campaign finance restrictions [pdf]. The Supreme Court issued an opinion today in Randall v. Sorrell, striking down limits on campaign contributions and campaign spending imposed by the state of Vermont. The Court, in a fractured opinion (six separate opinions, including two dissents), concluded that restrictions on both contributions and expenditures ran afoul of the First Amendment. More from Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog. Expect more from Rick Hasen later today.
Federalism and Faith. [more inside]
The Ninth Circuit (maligned by many as a hotbed of extreme liberal judicial activism, but defended by others PDF) issued its opinion in the case of Harper v. Poway Unified School District last week. Judge Stephen Reinhardt - who, to some people, embodies the alleged evils of the Ninth Circuit - issued the majority opinion, and Judge Alex Kozinski filed a strong dissent. The majority opinion held that a high school principal who ordered a student to remove his T-shirt that said "Homosexuality is Shameful" did not violate the student's First Amendment rights, reasoning that "limitations on speech" are permissible in cases where speech is "derogatory and injurious remarks directed at students' minority status such as race religion and sexual orientation," and the limitation is "narrow, and applied with sensitivity and for reasons that are consistent with the fundamental First Amendment mandate." [more inside]
In July, Georgia federal judge William C. O’Kelley ordered Barrow County to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from its courthouse. The suit was filed by ACLU Georgia, which not only succeeded in getting the plaque removed, but also recovered $150,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses. Ten Commandments-Georgia pledged to reimburse the county for its legal expenses. In order for the group to raise the last $52,000 it needs to meet that pledge, it has put the actual Ten Commandments plaque that was removed from the courthouse under the order of the court up for auction on eBay.
The End of Internet P8rn? The updated 2257 regulations, which go into effect June 23, will expand the proof of age record-keeping requirements that producers of sexually explicit content must follow. Industry insiders are scrambling to prepare for the new regulations and claim they are too burdensome to 'net p9rn providers and are illogical. (The AVN links are NSFW) The Free Speech Coalition is seeking a temporary restraining order (Doc file) to enjoin the enforcement of the new regulations hoping to prevent what some predict to be an industry wide shutdown. Is this a matter of the law keeping up with technology, or an assault on .xxx?
The Supreme Court ruled today that Michael Newdow did not have standing to sue on behalf of his daughter in challenging the recitation of the pledge in a public school classroom in California.
The Bush administration has today stepped into the Supreme Court’s next major church-state case, by siding with the ACLJ and asking the high court to allow a state merit scholarship to be applied towards a degree in theology at a Christian College. Is this a valid example of the separation of Church and State, or unreasonable anti-religious discrimination? More inside.
Appellate Court Rules Media Can Legally Lie. "The attorneys for Fox . . . argued the First Amendment gives broadcasters the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on the public airwaves." And they won. Learn about the alleged deception (regarding BGH in milk). Read the appellate court's opinion which essentially says that there's no law against lying.
"If this were a sci-fi melodrama, it might be called Speech-Zilla meets Trademark Kong. ... The parties are advised to chill." (PDF file)
"If this were a sci-fi melodrama, it might be called Speech-Zilla meets Trademark Kong. ... The parties are advised to chill." (PDF file) The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is at it again. Aqua's hit song "Barbie Girl" is judged not to be a violation of Mattel's trademark, but to be a parody protected by free speech. And all laboured judgely joshing aside, the decision offers a nice summary of trademark law. Get a plain HTML news story from CNN here. (The chorus is running through your brain now, right? And it's going to be there all day, too. *snicker*)
Police State 2000. "What makes you think you can edit content?" the federal judge asked city officials. "Isn't that classic censorship and prior restraint?"