First Amendment Newsflash 8/21-9/3

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s new bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.



Court News

San Francisco State University argued in federal court that it could not prevent certain acts of anti-semitism on campus without unconstitutionally curbing freedom of speech.

In a case relating to a police unit’s blanket ban on speaking to those outside of the department about police matters, the Ninth Circuit ruled that such bans violate the First Amendment.

A New Jersey municipal court judge found a woman not guilty on harassment charges brought against her for posting implications on Facebook that two individuals had killed a bear. In his ruling, the judge said that the First Amendment prohibits a guilty finding in harassment cases involving public, non-directed speech.

The Second Circuit ruled that a New York town ordinance that restricted day laborers from soliciting work on the streets is a content-based restriction in violation of the First Amendment.

The Third Circuit ruled that TSA agents cannot be sued for First Amendment retaliation, due to their important role in protecting national security.

Utah violated a theater’s First Amendment rights when it threatened the theater’s liquor license after the theater showed the R-rated Deadpool while serving alcohol.

In the case of the Washington state high school football coach who was dismissed after leading post-game prayers, the Ninth Circuit rejected the coach’s request for an injunction, reasoning that because he spoke as a public employee while praying, his speech was unprotected under Garcetti.

A federal court ruled that Arizona’s ban on Mexican American studies violates students’ First Amendment “right to receive information and ideas.”

The Eleventh Circuit ruled that Miami Beach bans on solicitation, including passing out handbills on popular Lincoln Road, are unconstitutional.

The Virginia county chairwoman who was found to have violated the First Amendment when she blocked a constituent from her Facebook page is appealing to the Fourth Circuit.

The Fourth Circuit declined to immediately take action in a redistricting case brought by Maryland Republicans, in which the plaintiffs allege that the Maryland congressional district maps unconstitutionally disfavor Republicans. The three-judge panel said it wants to wait for the Supreme Court to decide Gill v. Whitford, a case coming out of Wisconsin that considers similar issues, before deciding this case.

A federal judge dismissed Sarah Palin’s libel suit against the New York Times, reasoning that Palin did not meet her burden in showing that the Times acted with actual malice.

A preliminary injunction against Texas’s anti-sanctuary city statute was granted in federal court because the law likely violates the First Amendment by allowing discussion on one side of the immigration debate, while restricting discussion on the other side.

LGBT advocacy groups have sued the Trump administration over the transgender military ban, alleging in part that the ban violates the free speech rights of transgender individuals.

A federal judge ruled that a Virginia Department of Corrections policy denying gatherings and religious texts to members of an offshoot of the Nation of Islam violates inmates’ First Amendment right to free exercise.

In the lawsuit filed by Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, alleging that presidential debate rules violate antitrust law and the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled the First Amendment claim failed because the debate commission is a private entity, and thus its actions are not state actions.


Federal Executive News

The DOJ modified its request for a warrant to gather information about subscribers to an anti-Trump protest website, narrowing the request to a certain date range and further defining the types of documents the government seeks. A D.C. superior court judge granted the warrant, but with some restrictions. The warrant has raised free speech concerns, because although the DOJ claims the information will assist in prosecuting those who plan illegal riots, free speech advocates are concerned that the warrant sweeps up the information of law-abiding Trump protesters and causes a chilling effect on speech critical of the Trump administration.


State Legislative News

Two legislators in Ohio have introduced a campus free speech act, following a wave of states that considered and adopted such laws last year.


Other News & Commentary

Durham Public Schools joined many other school districts across the country in prohibiting students from wearing Confederate flags, KKK symbols, and other symbols that are “reasonably expected to intimidate” others based on protected classes. The policy has raised free speech concerns, but advocates argue it is necessary to maintain safe environments for all students.

The ACLU has said that in deciding whether to take free speech cases, it will consider potential for violence, such as whether protesters plan to carry loaded firearms.


That’s it for your First Amendment Newsflash Aug. 21-Sept. 3. See you again on Sept. 17! In the meantime, don’t forget to secure your ticket to our annual symposium: Distorting the Truth: “Fake News” and Free Speech! 4.5 N.C. CLE credits available!

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