Free Speech

* The NSA protests that its spying on foreign leaders was entirely legal. In defense of the NSA, this latest uproar seems misplaced. Warrantless spying on Americans is illegal, but spying on foreign governments is kind of the whole point of the NSA. [Associated Press]

* Judge James Bredar has laid out his thoughts on how sentencing judges should deal with the changing legal landscape surrounding marijuana. This is important because those dumb Guidelines still recommend an enhancement for taking One Toke Over the Line. [Sentencing Law & Policy]

* Should a plagiarizing journalist be allowed to join the ranks of licensed attorneys? Con: His crime suggests low moral character. Pro: He’s going to be a master of boilerplate. [Juice, Justice & Corgis]

* Jones Day is representing pro bono a number of Catholic institutions ticked off that they might have to buy insurance that their workers might, at some point, maybe use to buy birth control pills. It’s a tremendous intrusion upon religious liberty that Catholic institutions routinely did before they decided to make a political spectacle out of it. [National Law Journal]

* A speech to Harvard Law alums about the slow death of free speech at Harvard. By “slow death of free speech” the speaker details how a private, non-governmental institution decided not to tolerate jackassery, but whatever. [Minding the Campus via The Volokh Conspiracy]

* It’s still several months until the ATL Law Revue competition. So to keep you entertained until then, check out this parody of Lorde’s Royals performed by some law students. It looks like it’s the same geniuses from Auckland Law School behind the Blurred Lines parody. Do the Kiwis have time to do actual law school stuff? Video embedded after the jump… [Legal Cheek]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: 11.04.13″

* Who says bipartisanship is dead? Senators McCain and Gillibrand hammer Obama’s nominee for Navy Undersecretary. Gillibrand went after her specifically over prosecuting sexual assaults. [Breaking Defense]

* Lawyers per capita by state. For everyone who says lawyers make the world worse, note that Arkansas has the fewest lawyers per capita and do with that information what you will. [Law School Tuition Bubble]

* A bunch of rabbis were arrested for plotting to kidnap and torture a guy into granting a Jewish divorce. This is a thing? [Wall Street Journal]

* Professor Larry Lessig thinks the administration should have made originalist arguments in the McCutcheon case to salvage campaign finance limits. First, I don’t see why this would have worked. Second, someone in Washington has to be an adult and resist the urge to make stupid arguments just because someone might listen. [The Atlantic]

* An agent is facing 14 felony counts for giving improper benefits to college athletes. For all the alleged cheating, you’d think UNC would be better at football. [Forbes]

* A Texas judge ordered a teen to move back in with a sex offender. This was a poor decision. [USA Today]

* Upon hearing former NYC Mayor David Dinkins saying, “You don’t need to be too smart to be a lawyer, so I went to law school,” the dean of New York Law School said, “So you went to Brooklyn Law School?” Which of course Dinkins did. What is wrong with NYU’s Tribeca campus? [NYLS (exchange begins at 23:00)]

* Is this related to the law? Not really. Is it the cast of Archer doing the video of Danger Zone? Yes…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: 10.10.13″

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. In McCutcheon, the Court will rule on whether certain campaign finance restrictions violate the First Amendment. ATL’s Joe Patrice offered his thoughts on the oral arguments yesterday. Today, I offer an alternative perspective.

Currently, byzantine election laws restrict the total political contributions that a person can make in a two-year period, as well as the number of candidates a person can contribute the maximum amount to. The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, is a suburban Alabama businessman, the owner and founder of an electrical engineering firm. McCutcheon wanted to contribute $1,776 (a very patriotic sum, indeed) to 27 candidates across the country. Each of those individual contributions in isolation was legal, falling below the $2,600 maximum amount allowed for individual contributions. Yet, had McCutcheon done so, his total contributions would have run afoul of the maximum total allowed, currently $48,600.

Supporting political causes and candidates of your choice is an exercise of your First Amendment rights. Like all constitutional rights, though, it is subject to an overriding compelling governmental interest. In the case of campaign finance restrictions, your speech rights are trumped by the government’s interest in preventing political corruption or the appearance of political corruption.

Here, McCutcheon was expressing his political values, innocently — even laudably — participating in the democratic electoral process as he contributed up to 2600 bucks to individual candidates . . . until he supported one candidate too many. Suddenly, the First Amendment no longer safeguards his political expression. Suddenly, the threat of corruption or the appearance of corruption is so great that democracy just cannot stand if Shaun McCutcheon is allowed to give a penny more to support a candidate who shares his values….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Rumors Of Democracy’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated: Why McCutcheon Can Be A Good Thing”


Supreme Court arguments are off and running, and the Supremes wasted no time in getting to the fun stuff. In this instance, it’s McCutcheon v. FEC, the case billed as Citizens United II: Electric Boogaloo. The conservative wing of the Court is expected to side with McCutcheon in its continuing war to make American elections safe for multi-millionaires.

Anyway, the oral argument was marked by the usual humorous sniping amongst the justices and lots of fun exchanges where counsel and the conservative justices worked overtime to subordinate reality to ideology. Up to and including Justice Scalia arguing that $3.5 million isn’t that much money for one individual to spend on an election.

Here are 3 immediate, largely stream-of-consciousness thoughts based on reading the transcript (available at the end of the post) coming out of this oral argument:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “McCutcheon Oral Argument: Or, Justice Scalia Explains How $3.5 Million Isn’t That Much Money”

[T]he statement that “[Thomas M. Cooley Law School] grossly inflates its graduates’ reported mean salaries” may not merely be protected hyperbole, but actually substantially true.

– Judge Robert J. Jonker, in an opinion granting summary judgment to the defendants in Cooley Law’s defamation suit against disbanded firm Kurzon Strauss and Jesse Strauss and David Anziska, the original law school litigation dream team. Jonker goes on to cite MacDonald v. Cooley Law, in which the court declared the average starting salary listed in the school’s 2010 Employment Report to be “objectively untrue.”

(Keep reading if you’d like to see Judge Jonker’s eminently quotable opinion.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Cooley Law Forgets That Truth Is A Defense To Defamation”

As an American with First Amendment rights, you’d probably assume that a “Free Speech Zone” would look something like this:

The blue on that map should represent areas where you can exercise your right to free speech. Unfortunately, for many college students, their “Free Speech Zone” shrinks considerably when on campus. One out of every six major colleges have designated “Free Speech Zones” where students are “permitted” to “enjoy” this Constitutional right, and even then there are restrictions. In these colleges, exercising your right to free speech means asking permission at least a couple of days in advance as well as having the administration “approve” your speech.

The latest example of confined and controlled speech comes to us courtesy of Modesto Junior College. As FIRE.org reports, a student found his exercise of free speech shut down on one of the worst days of the year for a college to assert its negative attitude towards the First Amendment.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “California College Tells Student He Can’t Hand Out Copies Of The Constitution On Constitution Day”

Ed. note: Above the Law will be signing off early to begin the ATL/Kaplan Bar Crawl Review. Follow along on social media (Twitter and Facebook) or on the liveblog post after NS, or better yet, come out and join us!

* A Facebook “Like” is protected by the First Amendment. ATL Likes this. [The Atlantic]

* You can’t get a Frappuccino to go with your Kalashnikov any more. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* The stand-up comic judge has been shut down by the New Jersey Supreme Court in a 7-0 decision. Everyone’s a critic. [ABA Journal]

* An interview with Alan Page of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and formerly a Defensive Tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. Page’s hometown has a bust of him on display. Not so impressive until you realize he’s from Canton, Ohio. [Coverage Opinions]

* If you’re looking for some more legal content related to International Talk Like a Pirate Day, check out Buried Treasure: Finders, Keepers, and the Law. [ABA]

* A list of everything you should be doing with your time instead of getting a law degree. [Yahoo!]

* A warm welcome to Chris Geidner as the new legal editor of BuzzFeed. In addition to some great content, like his amazing profile of Edie Windsor (first link), stay tuned for “25 Ways Justice Alito Is Like This Cat.” [New York Observer]

* If you’ve upgraded your iPhone to iOS 7, you’re probably annoyed right now. Here are some tips to help preserve your battery life. We can do nothing about fixing how ungodly ugly it is. [Tuaw]

* Congrats to @FenwickWest on landing the big Twitter IPO! #yaylegalfees [American Lawyer]

* The Deal Professor, Steven Davidoff, surveys the legal landscape around the Twitter filing, focusing on the #JOBSAct. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Jamie McCourt, a former family law attorney, strikes out in trying to set aside her divorce settlement with Frank McCourt, former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. She’s stuck with $131 million and several luxury homes. #richpeopleproblems [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* An inquest reveals that a Hogan Lovells partner who took his own life had warned a colleague that he was going to kill himself the day before his death. [Daily Mail via ABA Journal]

* Good news for the news business: the Senate Judiciary Committee approves a federal media-shield bill. [Washington Wire / Wall Street Journal]

* Nathan Myhrvold, the CEO of a patent holding company, warns that anti-patent-troll sentiment could have unforeseen consequences. [Corporate Counsel]

* Praise in the WSJ for Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), the new book by Professor Josh Blackman (who recently wrote a guest post for us on Supreme Court beauty contests). [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Congrats to George Mason Law on its two high-profile hires: D.C. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg and Covington antitrust partner Damien Geradin. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* If you’re in New York this weekend, go see Arguendo. Or buy tickets for the 7 p.m. performance on September 22, when I’ll be doing a talkback with artistic director John Collins after the show. Enter the discount code “ABOVE” for $35 tickets (a special rate for ATL readers). [Public Theater]

* How low can the legal market go? Manhattan firm lists full-time associate opening for $10/hr. “NY to 10.” (Screenshot here if the ad is removed). [Craigslist]

* Iowa is giving out gun permits to the blind. Sadly this is not a new phenomenon as David Sedaris explained years ago. [FindLaw]

* Business Insider has fired its CTO because… he’s a jerk. An important lesson in what free speech does and doesn’t mean. [Popehat]

* A UNC professor pulled over for a DWI has sparked a Fourth Amendment battle because she was arrested by a fire truck. [Fox News]

* Banks facing SEC enforcement actions are basically just spinning a roulette wheel and praying it doesn’t land on “Rakoff.” [Ramblings on Appeal]

* On a related note, Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at the AFL-CIO conference and discussed the corporate capture of the federal courts (at 1:23:45 after the jump)…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: 09.10.13″

At the end of August, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in Elane Photography v. Willock that a Christian wedding photographer violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA) when it refused to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. (New Mexico does not currently permit same-sex marriage, though all the parties and the court frequently refer to the ceremony as a wedding.) This week, one of the parties in a similar controversy in Oregon, Sweet Cakes Bakery, announced that it would be closing shop, citing its opposition to baking wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

Elane Photography argued that it did not violate the NMHRA but, if it did, this application of the law violated the photography business’s Free Speech and Free Exercise rights under the First Amendment. The court disagreed, writing that “when Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the NMHRA in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.”

Personally, I’d vote for same-sex marriage if I lived in a state considering such laws. Polygamy too, for that matter. If you are listening for a full-throated defense of traditional, heterosexual marriage to the exclusion of state recognition of any other arrangement, you won’t hear it here. I’m inclined to support religious understandings of traditional marriage, but I’m libertarian enough to let everyone — straight, gay, or otherwise — suffer through the headaches of having the government divide your assets when you get divorced.

Still, using anti-discrimination laws to mandate that all businesses operating as public accommodations provide services to same-sex couples’ weddings sounds like an unnecessary imposition on the sincere religious beliefs of others — and a great way to end up with lousy wedding photos….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Why Using Anti-Discrimination Laws Against Wedding Photographers Doesn’t Work”

Page 6 of 221...2345678910...22