- “EEOC to Gadsden Flag Lovers: Shut Up or Face Costly Lawsuits” [Hans Bader]
- Ellen de Generes raises First Amendment defense in suit by real estate agent with joshed-over name [Ronald Collins]
- Background: in England (generally unlike U.S.), tasteless jokes and online insults have been prosecuted as crime [Guardian on moves there to classify “misogyny” as hate crime]
- Melania Trump’s defamation suit against U.K.-based Daily Mail is filed in Maryland, also names obscure blogger from that state [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- Tale of ginned-up out-of-state defamation lawsuit meant to aid in “reputation management” takedowns gets even weirder [Paul Alan Levy, earlier]
- University of Tennessee, a public institution, cites First Amendment in dropping probe of Prof. Glenn Reynolds over controversial tweet [Robert Shibley, FIRE]
If the climate among students on campus has turned markedly less favorable toward free expression in recent years, perhaps that is but a symptom of a deeper problem: academic opinion itself in relevant fields has turned less friendly toward free speech, which it is replacing with new concepts of speech-as-violence, speech-as-discrimination, and speech-as-scientifically-perilous-“denialism.” Each of these concepts invites the suppression of large categories of expression disapproved of by authorities. [Daniel Jacobson, Cato Policy Analysis No. 796] The paper also sheds light on how Yale law professor Robert Post might have come to write approvingly of government investigation into wrongful climate advocacy.
- Free speech hero Flemming Rose’s acceptance speech on winning the 2016 Cato Institute Friedman Prize;
- “A Timeline of Attacks on Free Speech” is one of many features of new book Defending Free Speech, edited by Steve Simpson and highly recommended by figures including Harvey Silverglate, Flemming Rose, and Tara Smith [Ayn Rand Institute]
- “Never Mind Peter Thiel; Gawker Killed Itself” [Simon Dumenco, Ad Age] That “prospect of financial ruin based on amorphous tort claims [will] improve quality of journalism” is a shaky premise, though [Jacob Sullum; earlier]
- If you’ve heard and passed along the notion that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to civil cases you may find someone referring you to this Popehat page;
- EEOC logic might require employers to investigate employees who make some kinds of critical water-cooler comments about political candidates [Eugene Volokh]
- “Law Firm Sues 20-Year-Old Waitress Over Unflattering Yelp, Facebook Reviews” [Meagan Flynn, Houston Press]
What Ken says at Popehat:
…for most of us the scary part of the story is that our legal system is generally receptive to people abusing it to suppress speech. Money helps do that, but it’s not necessary to do it. A hand-to-mouth lunatic with a dishonest contingency lawyer can ruin you and suppress your speech nearly as easily as a billionaire. Will you prevail against a malicious and frivolous defamation suit? Perhaps sooner if you’re lucky enough to be in a state with a good anti-SLAPP statute. Or perhaps years later. Will you be one of the lucky handful who get pro bono help? Or will you be like almost everyone else, who has to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect your right to speak, or else abandon your right to speak because you can’t afford to defend it?
The system isn’t just broken for affluent publications targeted by billionaires. It’s broken for everyone, and almost everyone else’s speech is at much greater risk.
Our coverage of the publication, including its run-in with champerty and maintenance and Peter Thiel’s version of “public interest” litigation, is here.
- New, much-anticipated documentary Can We Take a Joke? When Outrage and Comedy Collide [on demand, Greg Lukianoff] More on the fining of comedian Mike Ward by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal [Guardian, earlier]
- “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!” [@donaldjtrump Sunday on Twitter] 25 years ago in my stump speech on lawsuit reform I criticized Trump for his use of legal threats to silence critics. More reportage on that history, a familiar topic around here [Frances S. Sellers, Washington Post, earlier here, etc.]
- Eighth Circuit: Nebraska regulators improperly retaliated against financial adviser over (inter alia) his criticism of Obama [Eugene Volokh]
- Nine senators (Boxer, Durbin, Franken, Markey, Reid, Sanders, Schumer, Warren, Whitehouse): we demand 22 right-of-center think tanks open their donation records to us [Carolina Journal]
- “Copyright infringer issues bogus DMCA over someone calling him out. Then denies all of it” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- Lawsuit demanding R ratings on films with “tobacco imagery” deserves to be hit with SLAPP sanctions; “suing the MPAA to force censorship raises the stakes.” [WSJ Law Blog, Scott Greenfield]
“One week after Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter seized the computers and phones of a suspected online critic, angry residents came to the parish council to defend free speech rights and to question Parish President Gordon Dove for hiring an insurance agent who is at the heart of the controversy.” [David Hammer, WWL] Louisiana has a criminal libel law on the books and although its continued constitutionality is doubtful given a state supreme court ruling, it served as the basis for a judge to approve a search warrant for the raid on the home and electronic equipment of Houma police officer Wayne Anderson, suspected of being the pseudonymous author of the gadfly Esposedat blog, which has criticized Larpenter and other officials. “When Larpenter was asked whether there is a conflict in him investigating an alleged crime involving himself, he replied, ‘If you’re gonna lie about me and make it under a fictitious name, I’m gonna come after you.'” [WWL, first, second, third, fourth posts]
Yesterday, in a major ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rebuked the IRS over its targeting of conservative groups and said that it would have to face a lawsuit by two plaintiffs, reversing a lower court that had declared the dispute moot. The unanimous three-judge panel ruled that there is “little factual dispute” in the case and it is “plain…that the IRS cannot defend its discriminatory conduct on the merits,” that the wrongdoing included not only targeting itself but massively burdensome and intrusive examinations of targeted groups, and that despite the IRS’s claims to have ended the discriminatory treatment, there is evidence that it continues today. My new piece at Ricochet explains.
Sarah Westwood in the Washington Examiner also quotes me on the case: “This is a blistering rebuke to the IRS and its defenders.” Remember in June when the Washington Post ran an editorial dismissing this all as not much of a scandal? Here was my response then.
P.S. Kim Strassel passes the following along in her much-talked-about new book, The Intimidation Game: “So, yes, the president was saying—two months after the news broke—that the whole IRS thing was just a ‘phony scandal.’”
- As government’s grip tightens in Turkey, Erdogan begins rounding up journalists [New York Times, Jonathan Turley on aftermath of coup attempt]
- German court fines man $2,480 for comparing state politician’s IQ to that of “a piece of toast” [Deutsche Welle]
- University of Cape Town disinvites free speech hero and Cato fellow Flemming Rose, of Danish cartoons fame, prompting letters of protest from Nadine Strossen, Floyd Abrams, Kenan Malik [John Samples]
- “If it’s perceived by the victim, then it is” — adviser to London police on online insults as hate crime [Express] “Nottinghamshire police to count wolf-whistling in street as a hate crime” [Guardian, quoting three backers and no critics of idea]
- Maybe our state AGs could offer tips on punishing wrongful advocacy: campaigners in UK want to prosecute public figures for fraud in promoting Leave side in Brexit referendum [Business Insider on “Brexit Justice” effort]
- Meanwhile, here: prominent Harvard Law professor says “rule of law” and “First Amendment” are “almost entirely without content” [David Bernstein on views of Mark Tushnet]
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]