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How Does the Supreme Court Work?
Freedom of Expression Around the World
BBC Country Profiles
"...guide to history, politics and economic background of countries and territories..." Overview of media landscape and list of major media outlets.
CIA World Factbook
Information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.
Media Landscapes of Europe
From the European Journalism Centre.
Europa World Plus
First published in 1926, the year book is renowned as one of the world's leading reference works, covering political and economic information in more than 250 countries and territories.
Electronic Frontier Organization
The leading nonprofit defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation.
An independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.
Recent First Amendment Cases
United States v. Stevens
The government may not ban depictions of animal cruelty for commercial gain because this law is overly broad under the First Amendment in regulating based on content.
Horizon Group v. Bonnen
Horizon Realty Group, an apartment leasing and management company in Chicago, filed a defamation lawsuit last week against a former tenant, Amanda Bonnen, over a tweet she posted about the company on Twitter.
Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman
The New York General Business Law prohibits surcharges on credit card transactions. Expressions Hair Design, along with four other New York businesses and their owners, sued Eric T. Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York, as well as the District Attorneys of New York County and argued both that the statute violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and that the statute was unconstitutionally vague under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court held that the statute was unconstitutional under both theories.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
Citizens United sought an injunction against the Federal Election Commission in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to prevent the application of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) to its film Hillary: The Movie. The Movie expressed opinions about whether Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president.
In an attempt to regulate "big money" campaign contributions, the BCRA applies a variety of restrictions to "electioneering communications." Section 203 of the BCRA prevents corporations or labor unions from funding such communication from their general treasuries. Sections 201 and 311 require the disclosure of donors to such communication and a disclaimer when the communication is not authorized by the candidate it intends to support.
Snyder v. Phelps
After U.S. Marine Matthew A. Snyder was killed during service in Iraq, he was buried near his home in Westminster, Maryland. The Westboro Baptist Church organized and carried out a protest at the funeral to denounce social tolerance of homosexuality in the U.S. While most of the picketers' signs attacked the U.S. and the armed services in general, statements on the Church website criticized Snyder's parents for bringing him up as a Catholic.
Hate Speech on College Campuses
ACLU: Speech on Campus
The First Amendment to the Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Restrictions on speech by public colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. Such restrictions deprive students of their right to invite speech they wish to hear, debate speech with which they disagree, and protest speech they find bigoted or offensive. An open society depends on liberal education, and the whole enterprise of liberal education is founded on the principle of free speech.
Judicial Deference vs. Judicial Activism
Judicial activism and judicial deference (sometimes called "judicial restraint" or, pejoratively, "judicial abdication") are types of judicial review. "Judicial activism" refers to cases where judges invalidate legislative or executive decisions, and "judicial deference" refers to cases where judges limit their own power by deferring to legislative or executive decisions. Historically in the United States, the political Right has encouraged judicial deference and the political Left has encouraged judicial activism. These days, politicians on both the Left and the Right might support a more deferential or active approach on the part of the judiciary, depending on the case. The Left, for example, mostly supported the Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriage, but would not support allowing the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Likewise, the Right mostly did not support the Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriage, but did support the judicial initiative to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Below are a few articles in which legal scholars support either judicial deference or activism.
Fighting Words and the First Amendment
Fighting Words by Should "hate speech" be made a criminal offense, or does the First Amendment oblige Americans to permit the use of epithets directed against a person's race, religion, ethnic origin, gender, or sexual preference? Does a campus speech code enhance or degrade democratic values? When the American flag is burned in protest, what rights of free speech are involved? In a lucid and balanced analysis of contemporary court cases dealing with these problems, as well as those of obscenity and workplace harassment, acclaimed First Amendment scholar Kent Greenawalt now addresses a broad general audience of readers interested in the most current free speech issues.
Publication Date: 1996-06-02
Cornell Law School: "Fighting Words" Definition
Fighting words are, as first defined by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in Chaplinsky v New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), words which "by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality."
Fighting words are a category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment. Further, as seen below, the scope of the fighting words doctrine has between its creation in Chaplinsky and the Supreme Court's interpretation of it today.
19th Cen Supreme Court 1st Amendment Rulings
Free Speech in the Nineteenth Century
"...despite the ratification of the First Amendment, government at either the national or state level attempted to control the public communication of aliens, women, and blacks during the first 130 years of the republic."
Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court
Content-based Distinction in First Amendment Law
The First Amendment Encyclopedia
Designation of a law as either content based or content neutral is an important first step in ascertaining whether it violates the First Amendment.
Content-based laws are presumptively unconstitutional and subject to strict scrutiny, the highest form of judicial review, whereas content-neutral laws generally must survive only intermediate scrutiny.
Exceptional Categories of Speech
Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This language restricts government’s ability to constrain the speech of citizens. The prohibition on abridgment of the freedom of speech is not absolute. Certain types of speech may be prohibited outright. Some types of speech may be more easily constrained than others. Furthermore, speech may be more easily regulated depending upon the location at which it takes place.
Extreme Speech and Democracy by A fundamental precept of all liberal democracies is a commitment to free speech. However, democracies differ fundamentally when addressing the constitutionality of laws regulating certain kinds of speech. In the United States, the commitment to free speech in the First Amendment has beenheld by the Supreme Court to protect the public expression of the most noxious racist ideology and hence to render unconstitutional even narrow restrictions on hate speech. In contrast, governments have been accorded considerable leeway to restrict racist and other extreme expression in almostevery other democracy, including Canada, the United Kingdom and other European countries. This book considers the constitutionality of hate speech regulation, and examines how liberal democracies have adopted fundamental differences in the way they respond to racist or extreme expressions.What accounts for the marked differences in attitude towards the constitutionality of hate speech regulation? Does hate speech regulation violate the core free speech principle constitutive of democracy? Has the traditional US position on extreme expressions justifiably not found favour elsewhere?Should, or could, other values such as the commitment to equality or dignity legitimately override the right to free speech in some circumstances? This collection of papers from some of the top free speech thinkers and writers today attempts to analyse and answer some of these fundamental questionsthat confront liberal democracies faced with extreme expressions.
Publication Date: 2009-05-17
Dual or Two-Tiered Theory of First Amendment
In an important 1960 article, Harry Kalven, Jr., coined the phrase "two-level theory." As he described it, first amendment methodology classified speech at two levels. Some speech was so unworthy as to be beneath First Amendment protection: no First Amendment review was necessary. Thus the Court in chaplinsky v. new hampshire (1942) had referred to "certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which has never been thought to raise any constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or fighting words." At the second level, speech of constitutional value was protected unless it presented a clear and present danger of a substantive evil.