Speaking Our Minds: Conversations with the People behind Landmark First Amendment Cases

Speaking Our Minds: Conversations with the People behind Landmark First Amendment Cases

Speaking Our Minds: Conversations with the People behind Landmark First Amendment Cases

Speaking Our Minds: Conversations with the People behind Landmark First Amendment Cases

Synopsis

Tinker. R. A. V. Ollman. Hustler-Falwell. Reno-ACLU. Nebraska Press Association. These names are synonymous with contemporary First Amendment litigation. To explore these landmark cases more deeply, author Joseph Russomanno interviewed the people at the core of these and other influential First Amendment cases, and he presents their stories here in a personal, in-depth oral history of First Amendment law. Previously unavailable in other literature, these stories go beyond the "what" of the cases and answer the "why" and "how" of ten major cases from the latter part of the 20th century. Through their own words and photographs, plaintiffs, defendants, and their attorneys describe what it was like to be involved in the development of these historic First Amendment cases. The issues addressed in these landmark cases cover crucial aspects of the First Amendment: freedom of expression, hate speech, libel, privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, promises of confidentiality to news sources, free press-fair trial, commercial speech, broadcast and cable television regulation, and new media. These narratives recount the events that initiated the court cases and follow the lead players through the various stages of the U. S. legal system. Excerpts of the court decisions are included at the conclusion of each chapter, and sidebars explain key terms, issues, and names that come up in the process. The cases highlighted here were often difficult and controversial--cases which, on their surface, raise questions about both the participants and their lawyers. A cross burner and a pornographer ask to be protected by the First Amendment; a measure intended to protect children from exposure to lewd content on the Internet is questioned. Through the words of the participants in these cases, the meaning, depth, and reach of the First Amendment becomes clear and demonstrates how the law functions to protect the rights of all individuals. This unique chronicle will appeal to those studying First Amendment law, including mass communication, law, journalism, and political science scholars, and to lawyers, journalists, and political scientists with an interest in this area. The volume is also intended to serve as a supplemental text in a mass communication law course or as a text in advanced First Amendment theory course and political science courses exploring the law, decisions, and processes of the U. S. Supreme Court.

Excerpt

Stromberg v. California, Brown v. Louisiana, Kunz v. New York. These are among the important U.S. Supreme Court cases helping ensure First Amendment rights in this country. We know the Court's decisions and reasoning. But we know little about the people who brought the issues to the Court in these and other free speech and media law cases. What political motivations prompted Yette Stromberg, Bella Mintz, and others in the late 1920s to display a red flag at a children's summer camp, violating a California law? Were Brown and his four friends in 1964 frightened when they remained in a Clinton, Louisiana, public library in silent protest against segregation? What caused Carl Jacob Kunz, a Baptist minister, to take all the way to the Supreme Court a $10 fine for holding an outdoor worship meeting without a city permit in 1948?

We have few answers to these questions. However, Joseph Russomanno's book, Speaking Our Minds: Conversations with the People Behind Landmark First Amendment Cases, allows participants in recent Supreme Court First Amendment cases to share their experiences. We learn why they brought lawsuits, what tactics attorneys used in arguing before the Court, what it is like to be sued.

Consider how valuable this is in understanding landmark Court decisions. For example, in August 1917 Charles Schenck, Elizabeth Baer, and others, acting for the Philadelphia Socialist Party, printed more than 15,000 leaflets, mailing many to men whose names appeared in newspapers as passing their draft board physical examinations. The fliers urged the men to "assert your rights" and resist being drafted into the service during World War I. The leaflets said the draft was "despotism in its worst form and a monstrous wrong against humanity in the interest of Wall Street's chosen few." In 1919, in Schenck v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Schenck's and the others' convictions for violating the Espionage . . .

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