Free Speech

Hey, we’re talking about Hulk Hogan here, so I figure a 20-year-old reference like “Talk to the Hand” is entirely appropriate.

A judge in Florida has ordered Gawker to take down a sex tape it acquired showing wrestler Hulk Hogan putting the “Legdrop of Doom” into his friend’s ex-wife, along with Gawker’s accompanying commentary and all the comments made to the post.

Gawker has taken down the video.

But in lieu of taking down the post and the comments, Gawker penned a stirring defense of the First Amendment that will also serve as Exhibit 1 in the eventual contempt hearing….

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Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.

At times, there’s no one in a more unenviable position than the chairman of the FCC. When not dealing with larger issues like net neutrality and wireless competition, you’re at the beck and call of every member of an Overly Concerned Citizens’ Group that feels the need to start a letter-writing campaign any time an expletive hits the airwaves.

Bono fired off an f-bomb at the Grammys and someone let Nicole Richie make the most of her what-am-I-for fame by giving her a microphone and allowing her to explain how difficult removing cow shit from a Prada purse is. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has twice found the FCC’s rules on so-called “fleeting expletives” to be a violation of the First Amendment. That, of course, matters little to angry letter writers who somehow believe The Children will be encouraged to swear by potty-mouthed celebs…

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The title is phrased like a joke, because this whole story plays like a joke: full of misunderstandings and dumb decisions. Hm. Typing that out made me realize that also describes most of the weekends of my adult life if you just add the phrase, “I’ll have another Manhattan.”

We set the stage for this joke in my home town of Portland, Oregon, and the campus of the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College. Last week, Chief Justice John Roberts visited the school to judge a moot court competition.

But the real controversy began after the Chief skipped town and the Dean started monkeying with the press coverage of the event — and blaming his actions on the Supreme Court…

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J.D. = Just the Dark Roast?

* President Obama apologized to Kamala Harris after referring to her as the “best-looking attorney general in the country.” We’re guessing the First Lady was none too pleased with her husband’s behavior. [New York Times]

* If you’re unemployed (or were the victim of a recent layoff), try to keep your head up, because there’s still hope for you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal sector added 2,000 jobs last month. [Am Law Daily]

* The 10 percent vacancy rate on the nation’s federal courts is unacceptable and the New York Times is ON IT. Perhaps D.C. Circuit hopeful Sri Srinivasan will have some luck at this week’s judicial confirmation hearing. [New York Times]

* Shine bright like A. Diamond: Howrey’s bankruptcy trustee is still trying to get “unfinished business” settlements from several Biglaw firms, but managed to secure funds from ALAS. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* Contrary to what law deans tell you in the op-ed pages, if you want to work as a real lawyer, it actually matters where you go to law school. We’ll probably have more on this later today. [National Law Journal]

* Cooley Law took a hard hit in the appeal of its defamation case against Rockstar05, and now the disgruntled blogger may seek a dismissal. Score one for anonymous online speech! [Ars Technica]

* Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain’s first female Prime Minister, RIP. [CNN]

Marc Randazza

Without access to information, there is no free press. While it was a privilege to argue against Mr. Dershowitz, it was more of an honor to secure a First Amendment win for the press and public.

– First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza, commenting on his recent win in a case regarding cameras in the courtroom — a win over Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who was representing the Las Vegas Sands Corp. (aka billionaire Sheldon Adelson). Randazza also represents Above the Law in various proceedings.

We all remember Schenck v. United States, the 1919 decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that established the “clear and present danger” test and coined the oft-misquoted line “free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

Eloquent and well-reasoned.

You know what Oliver Wendell Holmes didn’t say? “Free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting ‘BINGO!’ in a seniors home.”

But one judge has gone that far…

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You mean the guy who allegedly killed a tree over a football game might be crazy? WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED?

I don’t mean to brag, but I took two different classes dedicated to studying the First Amendment during law school. The first, a semester-long meditation on the ideas behind that bill of right, was much like war: long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. I don’t remember the two or three interesting things I learned in the class, but I remember feeling vaguely alive a few times. The second class, a more straightforward survey of the law, didn’t leave a mark on my consciousness the two times I actually went.

I’m a bit of a First Amendment scholar.

I do know that this most holy and invoked of all our rights has been the refuge of not a few rascals and reprobates. The adorable Larry Flynt is always available to slur a few words in support of free speech. And while I hate Illinois Nazis too, they play an outsized role in the history of the First Amendment.

To this estimable list of patriots comes an unabashed piece of redneck trash from the great state of Alabama. May it please the Court and roll damned tide, let’s talk Harvey Updyke, let’s talk sports.

Roll tide, y’all…

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Many lawyers keep blogs on the side. Most talk about amusing happenings in the legal community. But a few like to use the blog as a forum to describe their own legal careers.

But blogs like this raise numerous questions, such as, “Does the blog constitute an advertisement?,” and, “Does the blog violate client confidentiality?” and, “Why doesn’t the blog have more LOLcats?”

Now the Virginia Supreme Court has issued a ruling that settles some of these questions and opens the door for more lawyers to join the blogging community, at least in Virginia. And there’s a decent chance the U.S. Supreme Court will look at this case too….

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Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.

Silly reactions to violent video games are coming so fast these days it makes one’s head spin. Redundant labeling of games, doubling down on unconstitutional laws, and even special 1% taxes for games with a rating of “Teen” and above… It’s quite difficult to parse out the well-intentioned silliness from the grandstanding silliness. What’s clear, however, is that there are a great many people who don’t recognize games as the speech that they are.

One state representative from Connecticut, home of the Sandy Hook tragedy, is now upping the ante on that last idea and proposing a 10% tax on games that are rated “mature”….

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Some law schools want the bar to be so low they can crawl over it.

Whenever we ask the American Bar Association to make regulations with teeth that would actually improve the quality of legal education, the organization claims that law schools will sue them if they try.

The ABA has no stomach to seriously regulate its member institutions, but individual state bars also have authority to regulate the law schools in their jurisdictions. A new rule in California holds schools to a higher standard than the ABA is willing to impose.

So, of course, a California law school is suing 22 members of the State Committee of Bar Examiners over the new rule. They want to keep their rubber stamp of accreditation from the CBE, since they don’t yet have accreditation with the ABA.

If you think people running accredited law schools are willing to make spurious arguments to justify the value of legal education, wait till you see the stuff they try to pull at unaccredited law schools…

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