Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Lakier on Freedom of Speech beyond the First Amendment

Genevieve Lakier, University of Chicago Law School, has posted The Non-First Amendment Law of Freedom of Speech, which is forthcoming in volume 134 of the Harvard Law Review:

The First Amendment dominates popular and scholarly debate about freedom of speech in the United States. Yet it is not the only legal instrument that protects expressive freedom, the rights of the institutional press, or the democratic values that these rights facilitate. A rich body of local, state, and federal laws also does so, and does so in ways the First Amendment does not. This Article explores the history, and the present-day operation of what it calls the non-First Amendment law of freedom of speech. Doing so changes our understanding of both the past and the present of the American free speech tradition. It reveals that the nineteenth century was not a period in which there was little legal protection for freedom of speech, as scholars have long assumed. It also makes evident that the contemporary system of free expression is much more majoritarian, and much more pluralist in its conception of what freedom of speech means and requires than the we commonly assume. Recognizing as much is important not only as a descriptive matter but as a doctrinal one. This is because in few other areas of constitutional law does the Court look more to history to guide its interpretation of the meaning of the right. And yet, the Court’s view of the relevant regulatory history is impoverished. Missing from the Court’s understanding of freedom of speech is almost any recognition of the important non-constitutional mechanisms that legislators have traditionally used to promote it. The result is a deeply inconsistent body of First Amendment law that relies on a false view of both our regulatory present, and our regulatory past — and, as a result, is able to proclaim a commitment to laissez faire principles that, in reality, it has never been able to sustain.
--Dan Ernst