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Constitutional Law II: Freedom of Speech
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Kannar, George

 
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW II (FREE SPEECH)
 
LAW 612: Constitutional Law 2
Prof. George Kannar
SUNY Buffalo Law, Fall 2012
Text Book:  Constitutional Law – 2011 Kathleen M. Sullivan & Gerald Gunther, Third Ed.
 
I.  BACKGROUND, HISTORY & THEORY
            A.  The Types of Speech Historically Protected
                        1.  prior restraints = licensing systems for speech
                        2.  seditious libel = from bad experience with the King; trust is a defense to libel
                                    a. issue: Alien & Sedition Acts were passed contemporaneously with the                                        First Amendment
                        3.  speech is a fundamental liberty – Palko v. Connecticut
            B.  Theories for Why Speech is Protected 
                        1.  truth = can't know a priori what speech is good or beneficial
                                    a.  marketplace of ideas (Holmes) = good/true ideas will rise when all                                              ideas are expressed – true ideas will win the competition
                        2.  self-government = speech about public policy is necessary for the people to                               govern themselves
                                    a.  public policy speech gets the most protection – “core political speech”
                        3.  autonomy = affirmative theory that individual liberty is based on the                                         fundamental value of speech
                        4.  eclectic = coexisting theories
                        5.  negative theories (most important) = it is a bad thing to have the government                             make the call re: the value of speech; burden is on the government – starts with the                         assumption that censorship is bad
            C.  Jurisprudence
                        1.  default = court will not defer to the government in most circumstances
                        2.  absolutist = “no law” means no law
                                    a.  does not leave room for public policy
                        3.  balancing = ad hoc basis; tiers of balancing (scrutiny)
                                    a.  has the government weighing in on speech – this is bad
                        4.  categorization = different types of speech go into different categories
                                    a.  this is basically what we do
                                    b.  government is hesitant to make new categories
            D.  Impermissible Restraints of Speech
                        1.  overbreadth = a law that regulates constitutionally protected speech while                               serving a legitimate purpose  
                                    a.  has a “chilling effect” on speech
                                    b.  can avoid the standing issue because a court can say the statute is                                               overbroad on its face even though π doesn't have an injury
                                    c.  rule = requirement that statute be substantially overbroad – Broadrick   
                                    v. Oklahoma                           
                                                i.  rule for facial invalidation only
                                                ii.  can still be unconstitutional as applied
                                                iii.  person challenging the law has the burden to prove substantial                                                   overbreadth
                                    d.  regulation can't just ban all First Amendment activity – Jews for Jesus
                                                i.  need to articulate something more specific and advances an                                                         appropriate interest
                        2.  vagueness = is generally a due process/fairness concerns – need to be able to                             tell what is illegal
                                    a.  e.g., can't prohibit “annoying conduct” – Coates v. Cincinnati
                                                i.  making something illegal based on a factor like a 3d person's                                                       subjective opinion or reaction is suspect – also implicates the                                                            Heckler's Veto
                                    b.  government must articulate a clear standard – must warn citizens as a                                         condition precedent to punishment
                        3.  prior restraint = sentiment that this is way worse than subsequent punishment                         – government doesn't have the power to tell someone not to speak
                                    a.  e.g., licensing systems
                                    b.  can only use TPM to manage access – but needs to be very tailored
                        4.  licensing = needing prior permission (biggest historical issue)
                                    a.  no “excessive discretion” for licensing body when license is necessary                                        (parades, etc.)
                                    b.  procedural safeguards (usually with obscenity) – Freedman
                                                i.  have the show the government first
                                                ii.  precision, decision by courts (not bureaucrat), time limits  
                                    c.  can be done with areas of speech already unprotected (like obscenity) –                                      but the standards are very high
            E.  FA incorporated against the states by the XIV Amendment
                        1.  plus – need to have state action for a citizen to claim FA protections
            F.  What is speech?
                        1.  actual speech = obviously
                        2.  speech and conduct = yes
                        3.  just conduct = yes if intended to convey a message and they message is likely                           understood – Spence
 
II.  ADVOCACY AND INCITEMENT (DANGEROUS SPEECH)
            A.  Clear and Present Danger
                        1.  cases in this area usually arise under the Espionage Act or the Alien &                                       Sedition Acts
                        2.  FA applies to subsequent prosecutions in addition to prior restraints – Schenck                           v. U.S.
                        3.  clear and present danger test: – Schenck v. U.S.
                                    a.  degree
                                                i.  composed of gravity & probability
                                                ii.  even if low probability is danger, gravity of possible danger can                                                 be so high as to disregard the gravity (Hand Formula: “gravity of                                                    evil, discounted by probability”) – Dennis v. U.S.
                                    b.  proximity
                                                i.  very circumstance dependent – a little speech can be enough to                                                    create a clear and present danger when considering the context –                                                     Frohwerk v. U.S. (newspaper publishing created a clear and                                                             present danger)
                        4.  natural result doctrine: speech whose natural result is reasonably probable to                             create a clear and present danger presents a clear and present danger – Debs v. U.S.
                                    a.  however language needs to target creating the danger (discussion and                                        disagreement do not rise to the necessary level) – Masses Publishing v.                                            Patten
                                    b.  advocacy alone can kindle the fire of violence – Gitlow v. N.Y.
                                    c.  court will defer to legislative determination of what is likely to present                                       a clear and present danger – Gitlow v. N.Y. (Holmes disagrees)
                        5.  Alternative Holmes Test (dissent): – Abrams v. U.S.
                                    a.  present danger
                                    b.  intend clear and imminent
                                    c.  certain substantive evils
                                    d.  consider, unknown or unimportant ∆s may not have the support for                                           their speech to rise to imminent (foreshadowing)
                                    e.  alternative formulation:  reasonable ground (clear) to fear that a serious                                      evil will result in imminent danger – Whitney v. C.A. (Homes & Brandeis                                         concurring)
                                                i.  an evidence-based question meant to protect mere advocacy
                                                ii.  court moving toward not allowing regulation based on fear                                                         alone
            B.  End of Clear & Present Danger:
                        1.  there is a legal difference between advocacy of doctrine and advocacy                                      to action; to proscribe speech, speech must urge someone to do something                                          – Yates
                                    b.  looking for speaker's “specific intent” to bring about advocated result –                                      Sclaes
                                    c. rising standard of proof for the government – Noto
                                    d.  context still matters – civil rights speech was not treat as the type of evil                                    that communist speech was:
                                                i.  cannot prohibit elected member of Congress from taking seat                                                      because of his previous statements – Bond v. Floyd (here, the                                       

rotected – Chaplinsky v.                               N.H.
                        3.  inciting a riot is not protected – Feiner v. N.Y.
                                    a.  context: HOSTILE AUDIENCE CASE – sort of authorizes a Heckler's                                                 Veto if an immediate breach of the peace is imminent
                                    b.  Black dissent – arrest the rioters; protect the speaker
                                    c.  compare – imminence of the riot is a necessary thing – threat of a riot                                          attached to dangerous speech is not enough to suppress the speech –                                                Edwards v. SC  (look evidence of violence)
                                    d.  the government's first obligation is to try to subdue the crowd
                        4.  a statute can only punish speech that has a direct tendency to cause acts of                                violence by the person to whom, individually, that remark is addressed – Gooding                          v. Wilson
                        5.  rule = must be directed at SOMEONE and is probably limited to a face-to-face                        confrontation that is going to immediately breach the beach (gets rid of any sort of                        punishment for group libel)
            C.  Offensive Speech
                        1.  vulgar speech is protected so long as it does not produce imminent violence –                            Cohen v. C.A. (not obscene or fighting words)
                                    a.  government cannot proscribe individual forms of expression
                                    b.  expressive conduct = speech
                                    c.  allowing disturbing speech is more valuable than restricting it
                                    d.  speaker is free to choose his form of expression
                                    e.  government has a HEAVY burden to restrict speech
                        2.  rule = burdening speech is evaluated the same as restricting it – Cox V. L.A.
                                    a.  Supreme Court can independently review trial record for evidence of                                         breach of the peace
                                    b.  standardless or substance-based discretion is not allowed – Kunz                                                (permitting process fine for managerial interest)
                                                i.  never ever VP discrimination or standardless discretion
                                                ii.  permit system must have clearly articulated guidelines if going                                                   to deny permit for fear of a riot (need objective factors)
                        3.  duty on the public is to deal with annoying or offensive speech
            D.  Speech Punishable by Law
                        1. Libel/Defamation/Hate Speech (although these are private lawsuits, the state                              action comes into play when the government is enforcing a judgment based on the                         content of the speech)
                                    a.  speech tending to enflame or degrade an entire group is not protected –                                      Beauharnais v. I.L. (GROUP LIBEL) – never overturned, but never                                                applied
                                                i.  a/k/a “hate speech”
                                                ii.  problem = this speech lacks the individual targeting factor                                                          necessary for a fighting words analysis
                                                iii.  government may be able to make it illegal to shit talk a group                                                     of people (by publication) – but strength of this decision is really                                                      suspect after NYT v. Sullivan (allowing more robust press                                                                freedoms)