NEWSFLASH! 9/2-9/16

Happy Monday! Here are some recent First Amendment headlines:

San Francisco’s Board of Advisors passed a resolution this month designating the National Rifle Association (NRA) a domestic terrorist organization. Moreover, the resolution encouraged the city to limit any direct or indirect business it might conduct with the NRA. While the city’s mayor has yet to sign off on the resolution making it official, the NRA has responded with a lawsuit alleging that the action violates First Amendment precedent in chilling NRA members’ exercising of free speech and association.

Colorado State University officials cited the First Amendment when questioned why they failed to punish several white students who posed in blackface. The students posted a photo to social media of them with a black paint on their faces and the caption “Wakanda forevaa,” a reference to the film “Black Panther.” The university’s president issued the following statement: “Our community members—students, faculty and staff—can generally post whatever they wish to post on their personal online accounts in accordance with their First Amendment rights….This recent post runs counter to our principles of community, but it does not violate any CSU rule or regulation, and the First Amendment prohibits the university from taking any punitive action against those in the photo.”

Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, has brought a $400 million defamation lawsuit against CBS. Fairfax, who has recently been accused of sexual assault by several women, has faced fierce scrutiny since the first allegations arose earlier this year. His lawsuit alleges that CBS’s “This Morning” failed to properly vet two accusers before airing their interviews. In response to the lawsuit, CBS responded, “We stand by our reporting and we will vigorously defend this lawsuit.” As one legal scholar has noted, Fairfax will face an uphill battle as, under current precedent, his attorneys will have to prove that CBS acted out of malice.

Earlier this year, a former National Security Agency agent plead not guilty to charges that he leaked confidential national defense information. In a motion filed this week, the former agent’s lawyers are challenging the Espionage Act—the legislation he was charged under—on First Amendment grounds. The motion argues that the Espionage Act unconstitutionally chills free speech of whistleblowers. Similar discussions surround the case of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange.

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