Feb 22nd, 2013
Mary Beth Tinker, the student suspended for wearing an armband to class to protest the Vietnam War, will speak about student free expression rights at 7:30 p.m. March 11 in a forum at Webster University’s Winifred Moore Auditorium. Tinker’s suspension became the basis for a lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided that student free expression rights do not stop at the classroom door. The logic expressed by the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court did not sway a later court in 1988, which curbed student free expression rights with its Hazlewood decision.
Sep 21st, 2012
The First Amendment is less important today as control of speech passes to private “benevolent dictatorships” such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Sep 14th, 2012
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote a century ago that free speech didn’t protect a person “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Now some news commentators are dusting off that memorable aphorism to suggest that the offensive film, “Innocence of the Muslims,” is not protected by the First Amendment.
Jul 18th, 2012
An Illinois judge recently reversed his decision about the Illinois shield law. The judge originally ruled that a Website named TechnoBuffalo.com was not protected by shield laws. Read Eric P. Robinson’s piece on about his reversal here.
Jun 11th, 2012
The Illinois General Assembly failed this month to change the state’s tough eavesdropping law even though federal and state courts have said it violates the First Amendment. Currently, audiotaping without the permission of everyone involved in a conversation is a felony in Illinois, making it unlawful for citizens to tape encounters with police.
Last month, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Illinois law – viewed as the toughest in the nation – could not be enforced as written because it barred recording of public officials’ actions in public. The decision was handed down just before the NATO meeting in Chicago, which attracted large protests and citizen-police confrontations.
May 7th, 2012
For a time late last month, Rush Limbaugh succeeded in abusing copyright law to get YouTube to take down a Daily Kos video stringing together the insulting remarks he made about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who became a featured player in the contraception controversy a few months back.
The video stitched together short excerpts of Limbaugh calling Fluke a slut and a prostitute who should videotape herself having sex. Limbaugh apologized (sort of) after he began to lose advertisers. But when Daily Kos helpfully put together a greatest hits of Limbaugh’s comments, Limbaugh used copyright law to demand that YouTube take down the video.
Apr 30th, 2012
Last week the Missouri House passed a bill that the sponsor calls the Whistleblower Protection Act. The law actually removes protections from whistleblowers rather than enacting them. This is the latest version of a bill commonly called the Enterprise Rent-A-Car bill because the Clayton, Mo. firm has been lobbying to weaken whistleblower protections for the past six years. Earlier versions of the bill have passed but been vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Enterprise has made weakening whistleblower protections a top legislative priority ever since the firm lost a whistleblower lawsuit filed by its fired corporate comptroller, Thomas P. Dunn. Dunn testified that he was fired after taking the position that Enterprise was not following the accounting principles required of a public company. At the time of the dispute, around the time of the Enron debacle, Enterprise was planning to go public, although it later decided against that course. To go public, it needed Dunn to attest to the company’s adherence to generally accepted accounting principles.
Apr 6th, 2012
British journalists seem to have been reading too many of Stieg Larsson’s books about the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo in which investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist gets his best information from computer hacking. Sky News, part-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, admitted to The Guardian newspaper that it authorized a journalist to hack into emails to
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