First Amendment

Ed note: This post originally appeared on CommLawBlog.

Petition against a broadcast license renewal cites offensive nature of “Redskins” name as basis for denial. Should the FCC really be involved with this?

For years there’s been a steady drumbeat for the owners of the Washington, D.C. National Football League team to change the team’s name to something other than “the Redskins”. The contention is that the word “Redskins” is – in the eyes of both American Indians and non-Indians – an offensive ethnic slur. (In response, the team — which has used that name for more than 80 years – says that it’s a tribute to American Indians’ strength and courage, i.e., the antithesis of a slur.)

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Two hundred years ago yesterday, on September 14, 1814, a Washington, D.C. lawyer penned the words to what would become the United States’ national anthem. Today that man, Francis Scott Key, is better known as a lyricist than a lawyer. But at the time, the judge’s son, born to a wealthy slave-owning family in Maryland, was well respected in Washington’s legal and political circles. This week, On Remand looks back at Francis Scott Key’s legal career and some laws and lawsuits featuring Key’s composition, The Star-Spangled Banner.

By 1814, the thirty-five-year-old Key had already argued several cases in front of the Supreme Court. The most famous case, Mills v. Duryee, was the first time the Supreme Court construed the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Key argued that a judgment from one state, when presented in another state, was merely one piece of evidence to be weighed with all other evidence. Justice Story, delivering the majority opinion, thought little of Key’s argument, writing that it would render the Full Faith and Credit Clause “utterly unimportant and illusory.”

Key’s power of persuasion didn’t lead to victory at the Supreme Court. But, a year later, Key’s advocacy for a prisoner of war brought him near the frontline of the War of 1812. What he watched “o’er the ramparts,” then observed afterwards at “dawn’s early light” from a ship in Baltimore Harbor, became the inspiration for our national anthem….

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The notion that certain rights are guaranteed to citizens is being proven false every day. For instance, you have the First Amendment right to film police officers and other public officials, but it often takes an official policy change (usually prompted by lawsuits) before these public servants will begrudgingly respect that right.

You also have certain rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, but even these aren’t innate. You can’t simply remain silent while detained or arrested. You have to invoke these rights (often repeatedly) or risk having your silence (things you didn’t say) used against you.

In the case of photographing police officers, you’ll notice that activists and others who are recording will invoke their rights repeatedly….

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I’m proud to be an American. I’m ashamed to be an American. And I’m not sure what it means to be an American.

As you know, I’ve been living in London for the past two years. I’m beginning to feel like a local, but I’m still occasionally jolted by my American roots.

When have I felt proud to be an American in London? The first videotaped beheading of an American journalist by a jihadist with a British accent drew some attention over here. But I was dumbstruck to read this sentence in one of the local newspapers: “Scotland Yard warned the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating the video within the UK might constitute a criminal offence under terrorism legislation.”

Viewing the video might be a criminal offense??? Toto, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

In my mind’s eye, I see scores of college kids at Oxford and Cambridge, six drinks into the evening, saying: “Whoa! That dude got his head cut off?! We gotta Google that!”

And now they’ve committed criminal offenses?

Maybe that’s true over here in England, but I’m pretty sure we’d never stand for that in the United States. It makes me proud to be an American.

(I must say that the news of the second beheading of an American journalist dramatically changed the picture in my mind’s eye. Those college kids have now sobered up, and they’re heading off to enlist.)

So much for pride in being an American. Then that nine-year-old girl blew away her shooting instructor with an Uzi. . . .

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For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint.

– Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann, quoting Walter Sobchak in a footnote to Kinney v. Barnes (full disclosure: Kinney is an Above the Law advertiser, while Barnes is… well, this guy). While the movie may seem like a surprising citation for the conservative Texas bench, in their defense, Walter is a gun-toting crazy man so he blends in with a lot of their jurisprudence.

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

On August 7, 1782, near the end of the American Revolution, General George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, the precursor to the Purple Heart. Today, the Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded or killed in action. This week, On Remand looks back at the Purple Heart’s evolution, and the stories of two men who proudly wore the medal. But had they earned it?

Breaking with the European practice of honoring only high-ranking officers, General Washington recognized that in America “the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is… open to all.” So, Washington created the “Badge of Military Merit” for remarkable or extraordinarily loyal soldiers. Per Washington’s instructions, the badge depicted a purple heart with lace trimming to be worn over the left breast. After the Revolutionary War, however, the award faded away.

In 1932, to commemorate Washington’s 200th birthday, General Douglas MacArthur revived the Badge of Military Merit as the “Purple Heart.” At that time, injury in battle was just one consideration in awarding the Purple Heart. Later, to distinguish it from another award, physical injury became the Purple Heart’s sole requirement. Yet, some have worn the medal without meeting that requirement….

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Juggalo Washington

* The Insane Clown Posse is appealing their loss in the “Juggalos aren’t gang members” case. F**king lawsuits, how do they work? [Lowering the Bar]

* After losing before the Supreme Court, the University of Texas affirmative action admissions program looked to be in serious trouble. But the Fifth Circuit just ruled that the UT policy met the strict-scrutiny analysis mandated by the Court. The lesson for Abigail Fisher is once more, “How about you get better grades instead of whining?” Or at least “Get politically connected.” [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Apple agrees to a conditional $450 million settlement with the NYAG’s office in the e-book suit. So you might get some money back from the 50 Shades of Grey purchase. [Reuters]

* The Manassas city police have decided not to engage in kiddie porn pursuant to a warrant. Good for them. [Washington Post]

* “Judges are not deities. They are humans.” Let’s not tell Lat, the shock might kill him. [Katz Justice]

* Maybe it’s time lawyers started looking out for each other. This is a theme we’ve touched on before. [Law and More]

* The hell? Parents arrested for letting their 9-year-old go to the park alone? Suffocating parenting is bad enough without the government expecting it of parents. [Slate]

* CPAs are suing the IRS because the regulation of tax preparers lacks Congressional approval. Because we need more folks off the street claiming to be tax preparers. [TaxProf Blog]

* Lawyer and former South Carolina GOP executive director Todd Kincannon is under investigation by the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel for basically being a dick on Twitter. As Ken White notes, the First Amendment is all about giving guys like this a forum. [Slate]

The Supreme Court released its opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on Monday, holding that the HHS contraception mandate violates an employer’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, even when the employer is a for-profit corporation closely held by individuals who object to the mandate on religious grounds. Following the decision in McCullen v. Coakley, the abortion clinic buffer zone case, Hobby Lobby is the second case in a week where the Court told us how much each side of a fundamentally divided issue can ask of the other, under the law. They are hard cases to talk about without questioning the good faith or good sense of the other side. Nearly everyone thinks either Hobby Lobby or McCullen was a bad decision.

The only thing more frustrating than a bad high-profile Supreme Court decision may be the public’s response to any high-profile Supreme Court decision. For proof, one need only look as far as some of the tweets on SCOTUSblog’s Twitter feed….

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Exploding courthouse toilet = products liability attorney’s dream.

* Funny that SCOTUS just struck down a law imposing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, yet it heavily enforces its own buffer zone. Some call it “supreme irony.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* Despite the slacking demand for legal services — down by 8.8 percent in terms of billable hours — members of the Am Law 100 still managed to keep their heads above water. [Am Law Daily]

* Lorin Reisner, chief of the criminal division of S.D.N.Y.’s USAO and Preet Bharara’s right-hand man on Wall Street convictions, is leaving for greener pastures at Paul Weiss. Congrats! [Reuters]

* New York State’s highest court has rejected New York City’s ban on gigantic drinks that was previously proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Go on, have yourself a nice Quadruple Big Gulp. [Bloomberg]

* When the long arm of the law flushes the toilet, it sometimes explodes, raining down jagged shards of justice. But on a more serious note, we’re happy no one was hurt at this courthouse. [Billings Gazette]

The Supreme Court ruled today in McCullen v. Coakley that a Massachusetts law creating a buffer zone around abortion clinics violates the First Amendment. The law criminalized standing on a public sidewalk within 35 feet of an abortion facility, with narrow exceptions for employee and law enforcement access. Eleanor McCullen, the lead plaintiff, is a grandmother in her late seventies who stood on sidewalks near clinics in order to initiate quiet, one-on-one conversations with women seeking abortions. The Court held today that the buffer zones created by the law burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s interests.

The Court was unanimous in its judgment that the law violates the First Amendment rights of anti-abortion speakers such as Eleanor McCullen. So, why is McCullen so disappointing to conservatives?

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