This year the seminar will focus on ten cases decided by the United States Supreme Court in recent years. Those cases are: Citizens United v. FEC (election spending by corporations); Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (denial of official status to a law school student group that excludes gay students and those unwilling to sign an oath of theological adherence); Snyder v. Phelps (anti-gay funeral protest); Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc. (pharmaceutical companies purchasing information from pharmacies regarding the prescribing practices of individual physicians for use in marketing); Holder v. Humanitarian Law Network (teaching foreign terrorist groups techniques of peaceful petitioning); U.S. v. Stevens (graphic videos of animals being tortured); and Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (sale or rental of violent video games to minors); Morse v. Frederick (student sign at school-sponsored event arguably advocating illegal drug use); United States v. Alvarez (lying about receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor); and Scott v. St. John's Church in the Wilderness (display near a church of a large poster with a picture of an aborted fetus).
We will analyze these cases with reference to the classic theories of freedom of speech developed by James Madison, John Stuart Mill, Learned Hand, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, and Alexander Meiklejohn, and also with reference to the efforts of several contemporary First Amendment scholars to understand the freedom of speech in terms of personal autonomy.
Students will write two 2500-word papers (approximately 7-8 double-spaced pages). One will consist of a close line-by-line critique of an opinion, either a majority opinion or a dissent, in one of the ten cases. The second will be an examination of how the arguments and insights of one of the classic or contemporary theories might have implications for one of the cases. The papers will be due the week before we discuss the case that is the subject of the paper, so that they can be distributed in advance to the rest of the seminar and contribute to the class discussion. In addition, during the first four weeks of the seminar, when we canvass the classic theories, each student will submit a one-page "takeaway point" paper on each canonical thinker, identifying the one aspect of the argument he/she found most striking. During the discussions of recent Supreme Court cases, one student will be assigned the role of defender of the Court's majority opinion. (No writing is required for this assignment, just vigorous oral defense.)