Free speech roundup

  • “In Cato’s latest ‘funny brief,’ Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus are once again telling the Court that scandalous speech is valuable to society and that there’s no way for a government office to be trusted to decide what’s ‘scandalous.'” [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus on Cato certiorari amicus brief (with P.J. O’Rourke, Nadine Strossen, and others) in trademark registration case of Iancu v. Brunetti]
  • Could someone remind the President of the United States that there’s no law against making fun of him on TV? [Jacob Sullum]
  • New Zealand declares it a crime to possess or distribute manifesto of Christchurch mass murderer, begins filing charges against persons who shared on social media [Charlotte Graham-McLay, New York Times via Josh Blackman, Tripti Lahiri/Quartz]
  • Airport concession flap appears to set up a First Amendment case that Chick-fil-A would win, should it choose to pursue its rights against the city of San Antonio [KSAT, Hans Bader] Courts take seriously the doctrine of First Amendment retaliation even in otherwise discretionary areas of government operation [David French on Riley’s American Heritage Farms v. Claremont Unified School District, C.D. Calif. (school field trips to “living history farm” with outspokenly conservative owner)]
  • Courts should narrowly construe “true threat” exception to free speech law to cases where there is objective threat, not just malicious intent [Ilya Shapiro and Michael Finch on Cato certiorari amicus brief in Knox v. Pennsylvania]
  • Did a federal magistrate judge order the Chicago Sun-Times not to publish a juicy, mistakenly unsealed FBI affidavit from the city’s unfolding corruption case? (The paper published anyway) [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]


  • Re: Federal Magistrate. Good for the Sun-Times to ignore the judge’s order. The Supreme Court should declare that judges’ orders like those are a brutum fulmen and can and should be ignored.

  • Re: Trump’s open question re: news reporting/SNL It’s difficult not to have some sympathy for the President. “News” reporting is slanted and biased and clearly favors the Democratic Party. At some point, it is an electioneering issue. But that is more of a problem for the electioneering laws than the conduct in question. Or at least it should be.

    But one thing we need to make clear—Trump is by no means the worst offender when it comes to free speech issues. Numerous Democrats, in the past, have threatened radio stations for running ads–“Nice license you have there . . . .”

    Trump is a bete noire. That explains much of the outrage against him for somehow breaking norms. And he deserves serious criticism for hinting that FEC laws should be brought to bear on the press or comedy (of course, I don’t recall a lot of Dems getting upset about state go-go laws going after radio talk hosts for “in kind” contributions).

    Finally, and this does not absolve Trump, but let’s not forget that his judicial appointments seem very solid on First Amendment issues–not sure we’d be able to say that if HRC had been elected.