The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it: even after opponents manage to talk a judge into issuing a prior restraint order on speech, gun blueprints are still online in widely available libraries and will remain so. And making a gun at home in the U.S. remains legal, as it has been all along, though subject to a recent law on those undetectable by scanner technology [Brian Doherty, David French/NRO, Declan McCullagh, Josh Blackman thread, Erica GoldbergCodeIsFreeSpeech.com] And I only read Playboy for the articles about guns written by colleague Matt Larosiere (“Fully 3-D printed guns are still ineffective, probably less effective than firearms you can craft from hardware store scraps.”) Earlier on Defense Distributed “arms export” controversy here and here, and more from David Kopel and Cyrus Farivar on the lawsuit settlement. More: Trevor Burrus (“Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Blueprints for Homemade Muskets”).
The state of Mississippi insists that a company called Vizaline, by selling a program that uses satellite imagery to translate “metes and bounds” language into polygonal lines on a map, is practicing land surveying without a license, and should be made to shut down and refund all money it has earned in the state. Attorneys from the Institute for Justice say that virtual land measurement is not only not part of an occupation subject to licensure, but is a form of expression and communication and subject to First Amendment protections. [Cyrus Farivar, ArsTechnica]
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) proposes to regulate social media bots, or to put it differently, to regulate a form of speech carried on through automated mechanisms [John Samples, Cato]
- “The State of New Jersey Wants to Subsidize News. Uh-oh.” [Jack Shafer, Politico] Canada, farther down this road, moves toward outright government subsidies to newspapers [Mylene Crete and Jordan Press, Canadian Press]
- “Court tosses disbarred lawyer’s suit over newspaper article on his ethics case with a ‘crime’ header” [ABA Journal]
- Compelled speech in NIFLA v. Becerra: “A First Amendment Win in a Case That Was NOT about Abortion” [Ilya Shapiro and Meggan DeWitt, Eugene Volokh, Erica Goldberg] More: DeWitt Cato podcast;
- New Nadine Strossen book on hate speech challenges some conventionally accepted ideas about its effects [John Samples, earlier] Man in Pennsylvania charged with felony ethnic intimidation after calling officers who were arresting him Nazis, skinheads, and Gestapo [Joshua Vaughn, The Appeal]
- Will lawyers face punishment for using wrong-gender pronouns in social or bar-association activities? Lambda Legal suggests the answer is yes [Eugene Volokh]
What?! A bill passed 61-0 in the New York senate, and promoted as curbing elder abuse, “makes it a crime for caregivers (including family) to post photos on social media if elderly, vulnerable seniors aren’t able to give consent.” [Eric Turkewitz]
Yesterday was a two-podcast day for me. The first was a discussion at FIRE on prospects for free speech at the Supreme Court after Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. Other panelists were First Amendment experts Robert Corn-Revere and Paul Sherman and the moderator was FIRE’s Nico Perrino.
At the Cato Daily Podcast, Caleb Brown interviewed me about what we know from nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s career as a judge, which has been spent on the influential but atypical D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That means we know a lot about his views on some subjects (regulatory and administrative law, separation of powers, national security law) but much less about his approach toward issues that loom larger as a share of the docket in other circuits, such as disputes involving schools, land use, police abuse and prisoner cases, torts, and so forth.
Not very closely related: you’ve probably heard the theory that Trump made the choice he did because Kavanaugh doesn’t think Presidents should be investigated or charged with criminal offenses. Here’s Ben Wittes, who’s anything but a Trump fan, on the problems with that theory. [Lawfare]
More: And now a video of the FIRE panel:
Roger Pilon and I join Caleb Brown in This Cato podcast assessing the 30-year tenure of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who usually reached sound outcomes but often not by the reasoning we might have liked. Among the topics discussed: the gay rights cases, Kennedy’s change of tune on enumerated powers, and his authorship of Citizens United.
- Is ACLU changing its tune on free speech for the worse? [Wendy Kaminer, David Cole, Ira Glasser, Nadine Strossen] Symposium on Louis Michael Seidman essay, “Can Free Speech Be Progressive?” [First Amendment Watch, essay excerpt]
- Series of posts and law review article by Eugene Volokh on how Founding-era public understanding of freedom of the press encompassed a much wider swath of activity than just commercial or professional press enterprise [Volokh Conspiracy]
- “Perhaps it would be easier if [Councilman Justin] Brannan just issued a list of who is allowed to speak in his community.” [Karol Markowicz on Brooklyn pol who’s bragged of pressuring venues to cancel GOP and NRA events]
- “Free Speech in International Perspective” symposium this month at Cato Unbound includes Jacob Mchangama, Anthony Leaker, Jeremy Waldron, Jonathan Rauch;
- “An opinion, however moronic or unfair, is absolutely protected [absent special circumstances not present here]…. Though I celebrate an apology for wrongdoing, I can’t celebrate a surrender at swordpoint that encourages censorious litigation.” [Ken at Popehat on $3.375 million Southern Poverty Law Center settlement with Maajid Nawaz]
- Why veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell changed his mind on Northern Ireland cake controversy [The Sun, BBC]
In its decision yesterday in Minnesota Voters Alliance v Mansky, the Supreme Court ruled that a Minnesota law banning political apparel at polls ran afoul of the First Amendment. The ruling was 7-2, a classic line-up in which the conservatives, Ginsburg, and Kagan joined in a strong free speech stand while Sotomayor and Breyer were more deferential toward speech restrictions. Cato had urged in a brief that the law be overturned.
For the majority, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that while the aim of Minnesota’s law was constitutionally acceptable (keeping peaceful order and preventing electioneering at the polls) the details of its drafting were not. “A rule whose fair enforcement requires an election judge to maintain a mental index of the platforms and positions of every candidate and party on the ballot is not reasonable.” So the proposition is not that states can’t regulate the wearing of campaign paraphernalia into the polling place, but that Minnesota needs to come up with rules that are more readily enforced in an even-handed way. More: Eugene Volokh; Trevor Burrus; Andrew Grossman on Twitter (“decision is exceedingly narrow and will only hit the most outlier state laws. Still, a nice win for expressive rights.”)
The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the renovation of homes and other buildings containing lead paint and other hazards, and it recently went after a high-profile pair of violators, namely Chip and Joanna Gaines of the popular HGTV show Fixer Upper, for not following its rules in renovations shown on the show. “In addition to the fines and cleanup costs, the [EPA] settlement instructed Chip Gaines to discuss lead safety in an episode of the show and promote it on social media.” [Umair Irfan, Vox]