Books -- Freedom of Speech, Press, and Assembly by Darien A. McWhirter

Article excerpt

McWhirter, Darien A. (1994]. Freedom of Speech, Press, and Assembly. Phoenix: Oryx Press. 191 pp. Hardback, $29.95.

Supreme Court scholar Bernard Schwartz of New York University noted in 1992, "Freedom of the press ... is the 'palladium of liberty.' But that is so only because the ought of the First Amendment guaranty is transmuted by the Supreme Court into the is of positive law. It is judicial enforcement that makes constitutional provisions more than empty words."

No other democratic society permits freedom of speech to the same extent as the United States does. This is largely due to the undisputed role of the U.S. Supreme Court in giving "practical effect" to the First Amendment. It is noteworthy, however, that the history of the practical protection of free speech and free press under the American Constitution is not so long-standing as many Americans may think. It was not until 1919 that the Supreme Court started evolving an elaborate system of legal doctrines and theories for the protection of freedom of expression.

Freedom of Speech, Press, and Assembly is a readable and succinct discussion of the Supreme Court's interpretations of the First Amendment. Various issues relating to freedom of expression, including symbolic speech, are the primary focus of the book. Among the issues examined in the book are the "public forum" doctrine, the "clear and present danger" test, obscene expression, commercial speech, the right of a free press (libel, privacy, journalistic privilege to confidentiality, free press vs. fair trial, access to the press, etc.), and the right to assembly and petition government. The author, Darien A. McWhirter, a constitutional law attorney, places his discussion of a number of Supreme Court decisions in historical and legal perspective. He thus, pays careful attention to the interaction between the Supreme Court and America. Chapter 1 on the constitutional history of free speech and Chapter 9 on the current status of free speech, especially, provide a thoughtful analysis of how the First Amendment guarantee has evolved and is still evolving in contemporary American society. …