First Amendment Newsflash 5/15-5/28

Federal Court News

Judge Noami Reice Buchwald, a federal judge in Manhattan, ruled that when President Trump or any of his aides blocked plaintiffs from viewing and replying to his twitter posts, he violated the First Amendment. Buchwald stated, “ A declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a previous federal court decision in a case that banned prison access to a monthly magazine targeted to inmates. The dispute has dragged on for more than a decade and was first filed by Prison Legal News over a publication allowed in institutions in every other state but banned by Florida corrections officials. The publisher of the magazine argues that censorship by prison officials is a violation of the First Amendment, but the appeals court ultimately sided with the 2015 decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that the publication poses a security threat. Paul Wright, the publisher of the magazine, says he intends to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

State Court News

In Texas, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a lawsuit against Texas A&M claiming that the university violated the First Amendment by deleting and filtering their comments regarding Texas A&M Canine Research Lab’s work using dogs to study muscular dystrophy. Whether or not Texas A&M is violating PETA’s first amendment right will largely depend on whether or not the court defines the Texas A&M Facebook page as a “public forum.”

Other News

This week the NFL announced a new policy that requires players to stand for the national anthem on the field or to instead wait in the locker room. This new policy has created a great amount of controversy and concern over violating NFL player’s First Amendment rights. What many do not realize is that as a private organization the NFL does not violate any constitutional laws by requiring players to stand for the national anthem. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley Law and a constitutional law exper,t, told the Washington Post this week, “The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private institutions…private employers can fire employees for their speech without having to worry about the First Amendment.” While our country prides itself on our ability to express ourselves freely without punishment from the government, where there is no state action involved first amendment liberties are benched.

Looking overseas to Ireland, this week marked a huge step in democracy as voters moved to repeal the Eighth Amendment of their Constitution that placed a blanket ban on abortion. This movement signals a significant change in an ingrained stance against abortion. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar stated that, “This has been a great exercise in democracy the people have spoken, and the people have said: We want a modern Constitution for a modern country, and that we trust women and that we respect them to make the right decisions and the right choices about their health care.” This movement overseas comes right before the United States Supreme Court is supposed to rule on California’s Reproductive Fact Act. The Act requires licensed medical centers to post a notice advising women about state-funded programs that provide family planning services including contraceptives and abortion. The Court is set to release a decision in June 2018 as to whether requiring this notice in medical centers is a violation of free speech.

That’s it for your First Amendment Newsflash May 15-28, 2018. We will see you back for more First Amendment news on June 18!



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