The European Union may bring member states before the European Court of Justice for protecting freedom of expression too vigorously, reports Jacob Mchangama. “Even historic defenders of speech like Denmark and the United Kingdom are starting to choose ‘social harmony’ over free expression.” [Foreign Policy]
- Our defense of free expression should go beyond the utilitarian and consequentialist: Flemming Rose’s acceptance speech last week on receiving the Cato Institute’s 2016 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty [Cato Daily Podcast, WSJ “Notable and Quotable” excerpt, earlier; Michael Tanner on Rose’s role in the Mohammed cartoons episode and more recent Cato book, The Tyranny of Silence; my related post in context of Copenhagen terrorist attack]
- Virgin Islands attorney general withdraws D.C. subpoena demanding 10 years of records from Competitive Enterprise Institute in “climate denial” probe, in what looks to be a tactical fallback rather than a durable concession of CEI’s rights [CEI; John Sexton]
- FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) launches every-other-week podcast series, kicked off by interview with Jonathan Rauch, author of Kindly Inquisitors [“So To Speak“]
- “Tax Prep Company Tries To Sue Unhappy Customer Into Silence; Hit With Damages In Anti-SLAPP Order” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
- Media law has intersected with champerty and maintenance in the copyright complaint campaigns of recent years [earlier, OpenSource, and CopyHype on RightHaven episode]
- One of my community’s favorite businesses, Flying Dog Brewery, is using the damages received from a legal battle with the state of Michigan over its Raging Bitch IPA label to found a nonprofit “First Amendment Society” dedicated to “awareness-raising and advocacy around free-speech issues and organizing events that promote “the arts, journalism and civil liberties”; on Wednesday I attended its kickoff press conference in Washington, D.C. with civil rights lawyer (and friend of this site) Alan Gura and Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso [Ronald Collins, Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason, Flying Dog, earlier]
- Tonight in New York City, Cato presents its Milton Friedman Award to Danish journalist Flemming Rose, a key figure in the [still-ongoing] Mohammed cartoons episode, and author of The Tyranny of Silence [David Boaz, Cato]
- Troubles in Turkey: journalists sentenced to two years in jail for reprinting Charlie Hebdo cover [Reuters, Reason] Erdogan’s campaign against foreign critics assumes extraterritorial reach with complaints against comedian in Germany and Geneva exhibit [Colin Cortbus/Popehat, Foreign Policy]
- Ya mad wee dafty: “Man faces hate crime charge in Scotland over dog’s ‘Nazi salute'” [Guardian]
- Publish a “wrong” map of India, face seven years in jail and a huge fine [Hindustan Times; “crore” = 10 million]
- United Kingdom man fined £500 for calling romantic rival “fat-bellied codhead. [Blackpool Gazette]
- Emulating USA tycoon D. Trump, China pressures finance analysts against negative forecasts [WSJ, Barron’s on the Marvin Roffman story, which I used to tell when giving speeches on my book The Litigation Explosion]
- 21 professors, including Bartholet, Epstein, and McConnell, write letter to Department of Education Office of Civil Rights [OCR] challenging its directives on campus sexual harassment [Ashe Schow, Washington Examiner] Student suing Colorado State over multi-year suspension adds OCR as a defendant [Scott Greenfield; more, George Will]
- President Obama has been saying things students need to hear about intellectual freedom at commencements [Howard and Rutgers, Jonathan Adler] “Does Obama understand that his own government is responsible for the safe-space phenomenon he frequently decries?” [Robby Soave]
- Protesters these days disrupting and physically shutting down a lot of pro-Israel campus speeches and events on US campuses [Observer; UC Irvine]
- “Jokes, insensitive remarks, size-ist posters”: from a distance the doings of the University of Oregon’s Bias Response Team can seem kind of hilarious. Maybe not up close [Robby Soave/Reason, Catherine Rampell/Washington Post] “Towson U. [Maryland public university] implements ‘hate/bias’ reporting system to ensure ‘anti-racist campus climate’” [The College Fix]
- Read and marvel at the arguments being deployed against Prof. Dale Carpenter’s proposal for bolstering free expression at the University of Minnesota [Susan Du, City Pages] “Why Free Speech Matters on Campus” [Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch]
- Faculty at George Mason University law school unanimously affirm commitment to renaming school after Justice Antonin Scalia [Lloyd Cohen, Michael Greve]
- Why Josh Blackman signed Wednesday’s New York Times ad protesting the AGs’ investigation and subpoenas on climate advocacy;
- Proposed revision of ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct barring discrimination by lawyers could have major anti-speech implications [Eugene Volokh]
- “Game Studio’s Plan To Deal With Critic Of Games: Sue Him To Hell” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
- The Citizens United case was correctly decided, says Michael Kinsley. And he’s right. [Vanity Fair]
- Fifth Circuit ruling prescribes attorney fee award after defeat of frivolous trademark litigation under Lanham Act [Popehat]
- So what’s a good way to support teaching evolution without climbing in bed with folks who put free speech in scare quotes? [National Center for Science Education on Twitter: “Tobacco Science, Climate Denial, and ‘Free Speech'”]
The Citizens United case was correctly decided, says Michael Kinsley. And he is right. [Vanity Fair]
Seriously, what’s their problem? [Hans Bader on the Rhode Island attorney general’s proposal for a ban on many hostile social media posts, covered here earlier] Meanwhile, a Providence Journal editorial blasts home-state Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse:
…in dealing with [carbon dioxide emissions], or any crisis, it is vitally important that America not discard its essential values of freedom.
Regrettably, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., continues to make noises about using government to prosecute some of those who willfully persist in questioning the scientific consensus on climate change. …
This is troubling: a U.S. senator and attorney general [Loretta Lynch], both sworn to uphold the Constitution, mulling legal action against American citizens and companies for the “crime” of challenging a scientific theory. A number of Democratic attorneys general — including Rhode Island’s Peter Kilmartin — have also expressed interest in prosecuting those whom they believe are deliberately misleading the public about this issue.
Turning such disagreements into punishable acts of fraud would seem to be legally difficult. But that may not be the point. The threat alone could have a chilling effect on free speech, by intimidating dissenters into silence. Such an approach would be an affront to the scientific method, which involves the free exploration of ideas. …
President Thomas Jefferson said in his first inaugural address: “Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
There is no reason to pit environmentalism and free speech against one other. We can join together to protect our planet without trying to silence those who argue against us.
Some more recent commentary on the AG subpoena investigation Sen. Whitehouse helped orchestrate: Richard Epstein, George Will, Ronald Rotunda. As Prof. Rotunda points out, the government not only declines to prosecute advocacy research in other contexts, but often funds it. And the 2012 Alvarez v. U.S. (stolen valor) case establishes that outright, knowing lying for advantage often receives constitutional protection as well, on the recognition by the courts that “if the government can punish that, we go down a steep slippery slope. … The marketplace of ideas, not the subpoena power of government, should decide what is true or false.” More: “The environmental campaign that punishes free speech” [Sam Kazman and Kent Lassman (CEI), Washington Post]
- New college freshmen show scant knowledge about or commitment to free speech. How’d that happen? [Howard Gillman and Erwin Chemerinsky, L.A. Times via Josh Blackman] New Gallup survey of students on campus speech [Knight Foundation and report] Greg Lukianoff (FIRE) interviewed [Fault Lines]
- Senior Ohio State administrator coolly advises protesters that not retreating from their “occupied space” will involve getting arrested and expelled [Eric Owens, Daily Caller]
- Mizzou’s chief diversity officer asked university administration to assist protesters with logistics. And it did. [Jillian Kay Melchior, Heat Street]
- No, the regents of a public university should not be saying that “anti-Zionism” has “no place at the University of California.” [Eugene Volokh]
- “In Her Own Words: Laura Kipnis’ ‘Title IX Inquisition’ at Northwestern” [FIRE interview, earlier] Title IX complainant at U.Va.: that mural must go [Charlotte Allen, IWF]
- National Coalition Against Censorship, AAUP, FIRE, and Student Press Law Center voice opposition to calls to ban anonymous speech apps such as Yik Yak on campus [NCAC, College Fix, earlier]
- Eric Turkewitz has collaborated with other law bloggers on a series of April Fool’s blog hoaxes, but this year many bloggers sat out his joke about Donald Trump suits against the press. Sort of a canary in the coal mine right there [Paul Alan Levy]
- It’s come to this: Providence Journal runs pro/con debate on whether to criminalize “climate denial” [Michael E. Kraft, H. Sterling Burnett, link fixed now h/t Gitarcarver] Putting the R.I. in RICO: Sen. Whitehouse trades charges with WSJ, other malefactors (hello!) who keep fighting him on climate probe [Edward Fitzpatrick, Providence Journal, WSJ]
- “Judge Dismisses Felony Charge Against Michigan Jury Rights Pamphleteer” [Jacob Sullum, earlier on nullification activists and the law here, etc.]
- Feminist urges banning porn on the rationale least consistent with the First Amendment: that it operates as propaganda, the way a philosophical treatise might [Washington Post]
- FIRE announces free online First Amendment library; also interviews Eugene Volokh in a seven-minute video [Ronald Collins/Concurring Opinions]
- Greater Glasgow Police to social media users: “Think before you post or you may receive a visit from us this weekend.” [Alex Massie, Spectator, earlier on Scotland speech bans]
As we noted on Friday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, more recently joined by several other state attorneys general, has pursued an investigation of the ExxonMobil corporation and its links to “climate denial” that has now resulted in a subpoena (from the attorney general of the U. S. Virgin Islands, Claude E. Walker) demanding ten years’ worth of internal documents from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI, which issued a statement last week (with the text of the subpoena) vowing to resist the legal attack, has a further statement and links here; CEI’s Myron Ebell also recorded a Cato podcast (“fishing expedition… threatens our future… designed to shut us up”) with interviewer Caleb Brown.
Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View, calls the new developments “an attempt to criminalize advocacy”:
State attorneys general including Walker held a press conference last week to talk about the investigation of ExxonMobil and explain their theory of the case. And yet, there sort of wasn’t a theory of the case. They spent a lot of time talking about global warming, and how bad it was, and how much they disliked fossil fuel companies. They threw the word “fraud” around a lot. But the more they talked about it, the more it became clear that what they meant by “fraud” was “advocating for policies that the attorneys general disagreed with.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the game away when he explained that they would be pursuing completely different theories in different jurisdictions — some under pension laws, some consumer protection, some securities fraud. It is traditional, when a crime has actually been committed, to first establish that a crime has occurred, and then identify a perpetrator. When prosecutors start running that process backwards, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re looking at prosecutorial power run amok….
The rule of law, and our norms about free speech, represent a sort of truce between both sides. We all agree to let other people talk, because we don’t want to live in a world where we ourselves are not free to speak. Because we do not want to be silenced by an ambitious prosecutor, we should all be vigilant when ambitious prosecutors try to silence anyone else.
This investigation is intended to silence and chill any opposition. It is disgraceful and contemptible behavior by public officials who are willing to exploit their power to achieve ideological ends….
Given the coalition that has been formed by state attorneys general to conduct a grand inquisition against climate change deniers, this subpoena from the Virgin Islands attorney general is probably just the first assault in their quasi-religious war against unbelievers. Researchers, scientists, think tanks, universities, and anyone else who works or speaks in this area should be aware that they may soon become a target of these malicious investigations.
As the Washington state supreme court noted in Rickert v. State Pub. Disclosure Commission (2007), our forefathers “did not trust any government to separate the true from the false for us” in the realm of politics.
A sobering aspect of the state AGs’ crusade is what is taking place outside of courtrooms: they are pressuring companies to cut off donations to nonprofit groups that employ “climate-change deniers.” … New York’s and California’s attorneys general have investigated Exxon for making donations to think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council. Schneiderman complains that these two specifically are “even more aggressive climate change deniers” than the run of the mill. (Ironically, while these large organizations include a few people labeled as “climate change deniers,” they focus mostly on issues having nothing to do with climate change.)
…even if being a “climate change denier” were a crime (rather than constitutionally protected speech, as it in fact is), a donation to a nonprofit that employs such a person would not be a crime.
In February we noted Bader’s strong argument that a “prolonged investigation in response to someone’s speech can violate the First Amendment” in itself even when “eventually dropped without imposing any fine or disciplinary action.”
I’m also quoted in a piece in Vermont Watchdog by Michael Bielawski and Bruce Parker that came out just before the subpoena report, on some of the issues in the investigation.