For three years, Mother Jones has been litigating a defamation suit over a piece that drew attention to the political activites of wealthy billionaire Frank VanderSloot. "This was not a dispute over a few words. It was a push, by a superrich businessman and donor, to wipe out news coverage that he disapproved of. Had he been successful, it would have been a chilling indicator that the 0.01 percent can control not only the financing of political campaigns, but also media coverage of those campaigns." [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.
On April 12, Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison. The sentence has renewed worries about the extent to which political speech might be counted as material support for terrorism and possible effects on Al Qaeda recruitment efforts. One wonders just how far the law might go. [more inside]
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]
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."
A 15-year-old in London is being prosecuted for holding a sign calling Scientology a "cult", during a peaceful demonstration (0:55-1:40). The teenager refused to back down, quoting a 1984 high court ruling from Mr Justice Latey, in which he described the Church of Scientology as a "cult" ... The City of London police came under fire two years ago when it emerged that more than 20 officers, ranging from constable to chief superintendent, had accepted gifts worth thousands of pounds from the Church of Scientology. The City of London Chief Superintendent, Kevin Hurley, praised Scientology for "raising the spiritual wealth of society" during the opening of its headquarters in 2006. Last year a video praising Scientology emerged featuring Ken Stewart, another of the City of London's chief superintendents via
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)
The Green Scare: Rod Coronado gave a talk in San Diego and the feds called his words ‘terrorism.’ How new laws are equating environmentalists with Al Qaeda. [Via Gristmill.]
"Three years of legal education has been wasted because of an unmoderated message board." 3rd-year law student Anthony Ciolli has lost a job offer due to his association with law school message board AutoAdmit.
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.
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]
D: Yes, it does, because I've already had this discussion with him, and I've already been asked to change the signs, and I did. And I looked up all the statutes.
Red State, Meet Police State --take a big anti-Bush bumper sticker, some DHS cops, and an outspoken and educated federal employee. Put them in Boise, Idaho. Mix well. "It's the First Amendment for a reason--not the last, not the middle. The first."
How I Lost the Big One Lawrence Lessig on losing Eldred v. Ashcroft: "We had in our Constitution a commitment to free culture. In the case that I fathered, the Supreme Court effectively renounced that commitment. A better lawyer would have made them see differently."
Here's an interesting story for people who like to write and post stuff on the internet Judge Diana Lewis of Circuit Court in West Palm Beach issued an order that forbids Mr. Max to write about Ms. Johnson. That prohibition is not limited to his website. She ruled on May 6, before Mr. Max was notified of the suit and without holding a hearing. She told Mr. Max that he could not use "Katy" on his site. Nor could he use Ms. Johnson's last name, full name or the words "Miss Vermont." The judge also prohibited Mr. Max from "disclosing any stories, facts or information, notwithstanding its truth, about any intimate or sexual acts engaged in by" Ms. Johnson. Finally, Judge Lewis ordered Mr. Max to sever the virtual remains of his relationship with Ms. Johnson. He is no longer allowed to link to her Web site. ... All this as a result of a lawsuit in which Ms. Johnson maintained that Mr. Max had invaded her privacy by publishing accurate information about her.
"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*)
Nike Can't Just Say It, Court Rules Law: Firms can be found liable for deceptive public statements, justices decide. Critics call the decision a blow to free speech. You've got to love it.
"We just want to provide a safe environment where the students can thrive." Cussing at school can get you ticketed and/or sent to juvenile hall now. Student free speech rights at risk? Tinker vs. Des Moines all over again?
Congress is legislating free speech on the internet again. Passed shortly after the Communications Decency Act was thrown out by the Supreme Court, the Child Online Protection Act isn't as broad as the CDA but does it still go too far in an effort to protect children? Shouldn't parents be responsible for their own children?
Pennsylvania school's anti-harassment code ruled too strict. The 3rd Circuit Court in Philadelphia struck down the State College Area School District's anti-harassment code yesterday, saying the policy restricted students' free-speech rights.
Is computer code a form of expression and therefore protected by the First Amendment? That's something being considered in the MPAA's case against Eric Corley and DeCSS.
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?"
speed limit -- A bill banning Internet sites which publish or even link to drug-making information looks set to sail through Congress