Blog | First Amendment Law Review

Abortion Ambiguities Remain Post-FACE Act

When people think about the abortion debate, they think  Roe v. Wade . However, the Supreme Court’s decision in  Roe  was only the beginning of legislation and controversy surrounding abortion rights. The  Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act , signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, has sparked years of debate and discussion surrounding the First Amendment  right to peaceably assemble  and protest at—or near—abortion clinics. Namely, some argue that the language of the FACE Act is vague, ambiguous, and infringes upon First Amendment rights. The FACE Act’s failure to define the scope of certain concepts such as “threat,” “intimidation,” and “harassment” makes it difficult to determine what form of language or conduct falls within the right to peaceably assemble.  Through examining the current law, remaining ambiguities within that law, as well as pending legislation, this blog post argues that clarity issues stemming from the FACE Act still exist today. These ambiguities should be resolved by crystallizing the language used in legislation surrounding protests at or near abortion clinics, and by specifying what constitutes “peaceful assembly” under the First Amendment.
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No Comments | Posted by Elizabeth C. Nye on Wed. April 6, 2016 11:33 AM
Categories: Freedom of Association, Freedom of Speech, Public Health

Protecting Domestic Violence Victims or Depriving the World of the Next Eminem?: A Brief Examination of Elonis v. United States

Picture this, you marry someone you love and start creating a life together. Eventually, you have two children together, whom you adore, but eventually, your marital relationship begins to suffer and the two of you are arguing more often and decide to divorce.

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No Comments | Posted by Jenica D. Hughes on Wed. March 30, 2016 12:10 PM
Categories: Court Rulings, Freedom of Speech, Social Media

Coping With Unprecedented Connectivity: Citizens and Police

On April 4, 2015, a North Charleston Police Officer shot and killed Walter Scott. Michael Shlager, the responding officer, reported that he pulled Scott over for a broken tail light. Scott fled on foot and Shlager pursued. Shlager claimed that Scott grabbed Shlager’s Taser and that Shlager shot Scott in self-defense. A bystander’s video showed a conflict far different than Officer Shlager’s report. The video shows Officer Shlager shooting an unarmed Walter Scott in the back as Walter Scott ran away. The video also shows the officer walk back to where the scuffle occurred, pick an object off of the ground and drop it near Scott’s body, many believe this unidentified object was Shlager’s Taser. The sad case of Walter Scott and Michael Shlager shows both the growing importance of video footage as evidence and as a means to hold police officers accountable for their misdeeds.



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No Comments | Posted by Alexander H. French (Alex) on Wed. March 23, 2016 1:55 PM
Categories: Freedom of the Press, Social Media

Senate Bill 2 and the Establishment Clause

“This is a sad day for North Carolina that history will not judge kindly,” Sarah Preston, the acting executive director of the  ACLU of North Carolina  said in a  statement released on June 11, 2015 . That was the day the North Carolina House of Representatives (the “House”) voted to override Governor Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2 (“S.B. 2”), officially making the bill law. The  new law  permits certain government officials to recuse themselves from performing marriage ceremonies based on their religious beliefs.
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No Comments | Posted by Hillary Li on Mon. March 7, 2016 9:21 PM
Categories: Freedom of Religion


With the advent of the Internet, an entirely new realm of libel law has emerged in the courts, forcing judges to examine entirely new questions of Internet vigilantism and how to deal with crimes in a digital world.   Defamation, 20 N.C. Index 4 th  Libel and Slander  §  1, includes the two separate torts of libel and slander. This blog will focus specifically on the libel associated with Walter Palmer and Cecil the Lion.
No Comments | Posted by Elizabeth A. Kapopoulos on Mon. February 29, 2016 3:26 PM
Categories: Court Rulings, Freedom of Speech, Social Media

Unlicensed and Unheard: Stifling Segway Speech

Do tour guide licensing requirements violate the Free Speech Clause? In the past year, tour guides in two major tourist-destination cities challenged licensing schemes to two different results.  For guides in the city of New Orleans, the Fifth Circuit held that the enforcement of tour guide regulations served an important governmental purpose and was within the confines of its police power to implement.  Kagan v. City of New Orleans, La. , 753 F.3d 560 (5th Cir. 2014),  cert. denied,  135 S. Ct. 1403, 191 L. Ed. 2d 361 (2015). The D.C. Circuit struck down a similar Washington D.C. regulation on the grounds that the government interest was not great enough, nor was the regulation sufficiently tailored to pass an intermediate scrutiny test.  Edwards v. D.C. , 755 F.3d 996 (D.C. Cir. 2014). The D.C. Circuit opinion concluded that while content-neutral, the licensing scheme was not implemented in the least restrictive way possible, a requirement for even facially-neutral laws.  Id.  
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No Comments | Posted by Mia B. Ragent on Mon. February 22, 2016 12:18 PM
Categories: Court Rulings, Freedom of Speech

Firearm “Gag Order” Bound to Miss its Mark

“The contest for ages has been to rescue liberty from the grasp of executive power.” – Daniel Webster

In June 2015, the Department of State proposed several changes to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which regulate the manner in which items on the United States Munitions List (USML) may be exported. 80 Fed. Reg. 106 (proposed Jun. 3, 2015). In addition to the physical armaments themselves, the ITAR regulates the export of USML items’ technical specifications. The key component of the ITAR, and the reason it concerns First Amendment scholars, is that it requires authorization from the State Department prior to the export of any items falling within its purview. The prior authorization requirement, combined with a creative definition of “export,” creates a real danger of speech suppression through prior restraint.

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No Comments | Posted by Jonathan C. Jakubowski on Mon. November 30, 2015 1:49 PM
Categories: Freedom of Speech

“Chilling” Campaign Finance Law Upheld

Political silence, the inability to have one’s voice heard, is an issue that marginalizes many citizens and residents. In an effort to remedy this pervasive issue, some citizens choose to give money to public policy think tanks that help foster discussion about important public policy topics. However, this important tool for political mobility seems to be under siege, as issue-focused organizations face costly litigation arising from burdensome reporting requirements.

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No Comments | Posted by Joseph M. Swindle (Max) on Fri. November 6, 2015 6:15 PM
Categories: Court Rulings, Freedom of Speech

Occupational Speech: The New Hazard?

Since 2002 Texas-licensed veterinarian and Ph.D. Microbiologist, Dr. Ron Hines, has been helping pets and pet owners by giving online advice. Hines offered his advice for a $58 flat fee— or for free to those who could not pay— to pet owners around the world, often helping those who otherwise are without access to veterinary advice. After suffering from a debilitating injury that left him unable to practice, Hines began posting pet-care advice online. Pet owners responded by seeking advice from Hines, where he estimates he has helped more than 700 pet owners.

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No Comments | Posted by Kathryn H. Van Wie on Sun. April 14, 2013 8:52 AM
Categories: Freedom of Speech

ACA’s Contraception Mandate Likely Headed to the Supreme Court

In 2010 Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA was passed in order to increase overall heath care access and preventative health care services to millions of Americans. One such preventive health care requirement is that all private employer and group sponsored health insurance plans must include all FDA approved contraception at no cost to the employee or individual.

While the ACA provides for a religious employer exception, religious for-profit employers are not exempted and must provide birth control coverage for their employees. Religious leaders and private business owners argue that the definition of a “religious employer” is too narrow and therefore limits their free exercise of religion.

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No Comments | Posted by Melanie A. Stratton Lopez on Sun. April 7, 2013 8:29 AM
Categories: Freedom of Religion
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