Analysis and Commentary on Speech and Religion
Can a Trial Court, Consistent with the First Amendment, Order an Attorney to Take Down Part of Her Website During Trial?

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a recent case in which a judge ordered an attorney to take down that part of her website regarding prior, similar victories. The judge reasoned that jurors might see the website, but Hilden notes that jurors in the case were admonished not to go online. Accordingly, Hilden contends that the judge erred in directing the lawyer to change the site.

There Is Really Only One Issue in Town of Greece v. Galloway

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recently argued Supreme Court case that asks whether it is constitutional for a small town to open its town council meetings with prayer. Hamilton’s conclusion is that the case ultimately turns on a single factual question: Can there be, in 21st Century America, such a thing as a “nonsectarian” prayer? The short answer, according to Hamilton, is “No way.”

Should a Public Middle School Grammar Teacher Be Able to Teach a Lesson About the “N Word”?

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a case from the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, which involved a public school grammar teacher who—after intercepting a student's note that included rap music lyrics—continued the discussion, which then moved on to the use of the “N Word.” Hilden argues that the teacher should not have been suspended without pay as a result of the “N Word,” the use of which, by a teacher, in context, should not have resulted in the teacher's punishment.

A Breakdown of this Week’s Supreme Court Oral Argument in the Town of Greece v. Galloway Case Involving Prayer at Town Board Meetings

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar, and Justia guest columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Alan Brownstein comment on the Supreme Court oral argument in the Town of Greece Establishment Clause case. As Amar and Brownstein explain, the case involves the interesting issue of the constitutionality of prayer at town board meetings.

The “Me Me Me Generation” of Believers

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that a narcissistic worldview has infected debates over religious liberty in America, where, she notes, individuals are now demanding the right to construct their workplaces, communities, and schools in the image of their personal religious viewpoints. This is religious narcissism, Hamilton argues, and she compares it to the narcissistic viewpoint that critics of the Millennials say that many members of their generation often hold.

Should Revenge Porn Be Illegal? Victims Say Yes, and so Does the California Legislature

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on “revenge porn,” which occurs when a person agrees to provide nude photos to his or her partner during a relationship, but after the breakup, the partner posts the nude photos online, at times connected to the partner’s name or other information. Hilden notes that California now has a relevant law on this topic, but some think that the law is not sufficiently strong.

Some Flaws in California’s New Law Regarding Paparazzi’s Harassment of Celebrities’ Children

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on an updated California law that protects celebrities' children from the paparazzi, with penalties of jail time and hefty fines. Hilden suggests that the new law ignores serious First Amendment concerns, and that civil remedies, rather than criminal sanctions, might have been enough, particularly in light of those concerns.

When Is a Public School Student’s Online Speech About School Violence Cause for Concern?

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a recent Ninth Circuit case regarding the tension between the right to free speech and fears that such speech might spur school violence. Another issue that the case raises is whether the well-known Tinker test for public school student speech needs to be modified or augmented in the Internet Age.

Does the First Amendment Protect Begging?

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on the U.S Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s decision invalidating Michigan’s criminal anti-begging statute. The ACLU successfully argued in court that begging is protected, as speech, by the First Amendment. Hilden agrees with the ruling, but also raises the more difficult question of aggressive begging’ and how it can be regulated to strike an appropriate free speech balance.

Precisely How Much Academic Freedom Should (Does) the First Amendment Afford to Professors and Teachers at Public Schools? The Ninth Circuit’s Take in the Recent Demers v. Austin Case

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C. Davis law professors, analyze an important and interesting decision, Demers v. Austin, involving the First Amendment academic-freedom rights of public school and university faculty members that was handed down last week by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Amar and Brownstein argue that that a more concrete and categorical framework for resolving academic freedom disputes than the Ninth Circuit's needs to be fashioned.

A Colorado Case Raises Key Questions About When a Demonstration Becomes A Private Nuisance, and How Much Gory Material Children Should Be Able to Be Exposed To

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a recent Colorado case which raises two very interesting questions: When does a protest become a private nuisance? And, is it legal to expose young children to gory and disturbing images? The case at issue arose from protests near a church, in which protesters' signs included some that depicted graphic images of aborted fetuses. Hilden describes the factors that divide a protest from a mere public nuisance, and considers whether, in the Internet Age, young people may be more inured to graphic images that would have shocked their parents when they were their children's age.

The Boycott of the Upcoming Ender’s Game Film: Is It Justified?

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on the movement toward a boycott of the Lionsgate film Ender’s Game—which will premiere in November—due to the homophobic views of the author, Orson Scott Card, on whose book the film will be based. Hilden considers the responses to the controversy from Lionsgate, and from Card himself, and finds them wanting—especially Card’s. Hilden also notes that while Card’s bestselling books often and movingly invoke empathy for the other, Card, ironically, seems to have little empathy for GLBT people.

Noriega v. The Huffington Post: The End of the Story

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the story of a young Panamanian attorney, Juan Carlos Noriega, whose good name someone stole and used to create a phony blog account at The Huffington Post, which posted a bogus article in his name, the content of which he disagreed with. In addition, The Huffington Post then initially refused to take down the bogus article, or even acknowledge Noriega’s attorney’s letter. The full story also involves the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) sec.230.

Why the En Banc Tenth Circuit’s Interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius Is Indefensible

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton takes strong issue with the contention that a for-profit company is a religious “person” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third and Tenth Circuits have differed on the issue, and Hamilton argues that the Third Circuit is plainly right, and the Tenth Circuit plainly wrong. She also contends that the federal government should take an anti-RFRA position, just as it took an anti-DOMA position.

A College Student Prevails on a First Amendment Claim Based on His Peaceful Protest on the Supreme Court Plaza

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a decision by U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell in favor of a man who protested on the Supreme Court Plaza, and was arrested as a result. Hilden agrees with Judge Howell that the statute under which the protester was charged was unconstitutional in that it violated the First Amendment, and explains why.

Texas’s New Retraction Statute: Why This Strongly Pro-First Amendment Measure Should Be Passed Into Law

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a new Texas measure that will become law if Governor Rick Perry signs it. As Hilden explains, the bill at issue—a kind of retraction statute—would allow publishers to limit the damages that can be received by plaintiffs in libel lawsuits if the plaintiffs at issue did not request a correction to, or a retraction of, the offending material. Hilden praises the bill, but also asks whether, with so many and varied media, and the pervasive influence of Google searches in amassing facts and viewpoints on a particular topic, we still need retraction statutes at all.

The Newtown School Massacre; Connecticut’s New, Related Law; and How Such Laws Might Change in the Future

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on the new Connecticut law, banning the release of crime-scene photos and videos from the tragic massacre that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut. Hilden covers the key Supreme Court decision related to the new law, and questions whether future generations—acclimated to Facebook and to broad disclosure of personal material—may change the default rules in this area of law, and if so, how.

What Should the Supreme Court do With Town Board Prayers in Galloway v. Town of Greece? A Liberty-Based Analysis That Bolsters the Second Circuit’s Equality-Based Ruling

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C. Davis law professors, comment on last week’s Supreme Court grant in Galloway v. Town of Greece, a case which raised the question whether it is constitutional for a Town board meeting to begin with a prayer that—while the Town claims that anyone can deliver the invocation—has in practice nearly only been delivered by Christian clergy. Amar and Brownstein agree with Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the Town’s practice constitutes an unconstitutional establishment of religion, and thus violates principles of religious equality. But they also contend that there is another important constitutional issue here, regarding religious liberty, as well, and they focus their column on that issue. They also contrast the roles of Town Boards and of State Legislatures in this context, and note why analogies to public schools are inapposite here.

The Supreme Court Takes the Case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, Which Raises the Questions Whether—And If So, How—a Town Board May Open Its Meetings With Prayer

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses a church/state case that the Supreme Court has recently taken up, which concerns the question whether a town board may constitutionally open its meetings with prayer. Hamilton predicts that this case will be a landmark Establishment Clause battle, and a key development in America’s ongoing culture war over control of government programs and spaces, and of American culture itself. In addition to analyzing prior Establishment Clause precedents that are relevant here, Hamilton suggests where each of the Justices is likely to fall on the possible spectrum of views, and votes, regarding the Town of Greece case.

Why Tennessee Might—and Should—Reject Its Proposed “Ag Gag” Bill

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a Tennessee controversy over a proposed ag-gag law that would require anyone who intentionally records images of animal abuse to submit their unedited footage or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours. Hilden argues that, as Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper—who called the proposed law “constitutionally suspect”—has argued, it has numerous serious flaws.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more