First Amendment Newsflash 7/24-8/6

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s new bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Court News

In the case of the woman who was convicted of manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide via text message, Michelle Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail.

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Cranston, Rhode Island’s panhandling ordinance in the First Amendment case challenging the law.

In one of many cases examining whether politicians may constitutionally block individuals from their social media accounts, a federal judge ruled that a local politician in Virginia violated the First Amendment when she blocked an individual from her Facebook page after he voiced criticism. In similar cases, the ACLU has sued the governors of Maryland and Kentucky.

The West Virginia ACLU filed an amicus brief in the case of coal giant Bob Murray suing comedian John Oliver for defamation. Among the brief’s arguments were subheadings such as, “Anyone Can Legally Say, ‘Eat Shit, Bob!’” Read Vanity Fair’s coverage here.

The Missouri Attorney General asked the court to dismiss Backpage.com’s First Amendment lawsuit against him.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking a Kenner, La. law that prevents city employees from working on city political campaigns.

Google has filed a motion for an injunction in U.S. federal court, seeking to block a Canadian Supreme Court ruling requiring Google to take down search results for pirated products.

The Third Circuit ruled that secular organizations that oppose birth control cannot opt out of providing insurance coverage for birth control.

The Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court ruling blocking a Mississippi religious accommodations law, saying that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the act. The district court had invalidated the law under the establishment clause.

 

White House News

Jeff Sessions announced that the DOJ will route more resources to pursuing and punishing leakers, raising concerns and reigniting the debate over the reporter’s privilege.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will be nominated as ambassador at large for religious freedom, a position within the State Department charged with promoting religious freedom globally.

 

Other News & Commentary

An Economist/YouGov poll found that 34% of Americans agree that courts should be able to fine media organizations for biased or inaccurate reporting.

A recent survey found that 95% of millennials believe religious freedom is important. In the same survey, millennials also listed the right to free speech as one of the top three most important rights.

 

That’s it for your First Amendment Newsflash July 24-Aug. 6, 2017. See you again on Aug. 20! In the meantime, don’t forget to secure your ticket to our annual symposium: Distorting the Truth: “Fake News” and Free Speech! 4.5 N.C. CLE credits available!

 

First Amendment Newsflash 7/10-23

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Supreme Court News

A petition for writ of certiorari has been filed in Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, the case of the Washington State florist who refused to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding, citing religious freedom and free expression.

 

Other Court News

A federal judge has blocked Milwaukee’s permit requirements for augmented reality games while a First Amendment suit on the matter is pending.

The ACLU of Rhode Island has sued the City of Cranston, RI, over the town’s panhandling ordinance, which the ACLU says violates the First Amendment. Meanwhile, Columbus, OH has stopped enforcing its panhandling ordinances in order to avoid First Amendment violations.

In another panhandling case, the City of Slidell, LA has decided not to appeal a June district court ruling declaring its panhandling ordinance unconstitutional.

Facebook is arguing in federal court against a court order blocking the company from informing users when law enforcement execute search warrants to view their online information.

A federal district court struck down a California town’s sign ordinance, which allowed special provisions for new businesses and certain holidays, citing Town of Gilbert. Read The Washington Posts’ analysis here.

The Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, held that prayers before Rowan County, NC Board of Commissioners meetings were unconstitutionally coercive, reversing the ruling of the three-judge panel and upholding the district court’s opinion. Read WRAL’s analysis here.

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NC’s Campus Free Speech Act Disappoints Speakers by Furthering Status Quo

NCLegislature.jpgBy Lindsie Trego; Symposium Editor (Vol. 16)

The North Carolina legislature passed the Campus Free Speech Act last week, and the bill is now awaiting the governor’s approval. The Act is loosely based on a model bill made by the Goldwater Institute, a Libertarian think tank, and it follows similar bills passed by Colorado, Utah, Virginia, and Tennessee this year.

The trend of Campus Free Speech bills has captured lawmakers’ attention–especially the attention of Republicans– in the wake of sometimes violent campus protests such as those that occurred at Mizzou in 2016 and at Berkeley in February of this year, and also following what advocacy organizations have called a crisis of “disinvitations” of speakers. The Goldwater model bill seeks to address these concerns by (1) requiring campuses to implement policies that affirm the importance of free speech, including striking former speech-restrictive policies; (2) prohibiting disinvitation of speakers; (3) declaring outdoor areas of campus to be public forums, in which free speech enjoys the greatest protection; (4) creating a scheme of disciplinary sanctions for those who “interfere” with others’ free speech rights; (5) requiring free speech policies to be introduced to students at freshman orientation; and (6) establishing a committee to study threats to free speech on campus.

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First Amendment Newsflash 6/26-7/9

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash: the First Amendment Law Review’s new bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Supreme Court News

In Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the Supreme Court held 7-2 that excluding churches and religious organizations from otherwise neutral and secular aid programs violates the free exercise clause. Read The Atlantic’s analysis here.

Certs were granted, judgments were vacated, and cases were remanded to state supreme courts in three cases in Colorado and one in New Mexico dealing with use of public monies at religious schools. The Colorado cases look at a county school voucher program that allowed students to use vouchers to attend religious schools. The New Mexico case deals with a textbook lending program that excludes religious schools. These cases must be reconsidered in light of Trinity Lutheran.

Cert was granted in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, a case that pits anti-discrimination law against free speech and free exercise by questioning whether it violates the First Amendment for Colorado anti-discrimination laws to require a baker to create cakes for same-sex weddings.

In the case involving travel restrictions imposed by a Trump executive order (Trump v. Hawaii), the Supreme Court granted cert and reversed lower courts’ preliminary injunctions “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Plaintiffs in this case argue the travel restrictions violate the establishment clause because they were made with animus toward Islam. Read NPR’s analysis here.

Cert was denied in a case from the Seventh Circuit upholding Indiana’s ban on political robocalls, which had been challenged on First Amendment grounds.

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First Amendment Newsflash 6/11-25

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash: the First Amendment Law Review’s new bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Supreme Court News

In Matal v. Tam (formerly Lee v. Tam), the Supreme Court held 8-0 that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment. The Court found that trademarks do not constitute government speech. Four justices applied the Central Hudson test, while the other four justices argued that strict scrutiny was the appropriate standard. The decision is seen as reaffirming that there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Read The Washington Post’s analysis here.

In Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court held 8-0 that a N.C. statute preventing registered sex offenders from using social media violates the First Amendment. The majority opinion proclaims the internet to be “the most important place[] . . . for the exchange of views.” Read SCOTUSblog’s analysis here.

Cert was denied in a case from the Second Circuit challenging mass arrests of protesters (Garcia v. Bloomberg), leaving a circuit split on the issue.

The government filed its opposition brief in Elonis II. At issue in this case, back up on cert from the Third Circuit, is whether the trial court’s omission of the mens rea element from jury instructions was harmless error. Read Elonis’ brief here. For a refresher on Elonis I, check out FALR blog posts here and here.

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What’s That Sign Say? : A Brief Examination of the Four Opinions in Reed v. Town of Gilbert

RoadsignsBy Emily Jessup; Staff Member (Vol. 15)

Imagine you’re driving around town, when something catches your eye. You slow down, and look. There, right in front of you, spray painted in giant letters on the side of a house is this: “SCREWED BY THE TOWN OF CARY.” Huh? Why hasn’t the Town done anything about this? Well, they tried to do something and consequently, the Town of Cary found themselves in Court battling over whether their sign ordinance, which prohibited signs of that size, violated the First Amendment. Although the Town’s ordinance was eventually upheld as a reasonable restriction on speech, and thus not contrary to the First Amendment, the case went all the way to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a final decision. Continue reading

The Future of Cyberbullying Legislation in North Carolina

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By Hanna Fox; Staff Member (Vol. 15)

Young people have an unprecedented access to technology, which grants them abundant access to the world around them, as well as to one another constantly.  Technology’s increased prevalence is relevant in children’s education, entertainment, and social interactions. Though children experience many benefits from the increased use of technology, that same surge has created a new monster: cyberbullying. Continue reading