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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our “Inconvenient” Constitution

Addressing the controversy over the Koran-burning Florida preacher, a story syndicated by USA Today a couple of weeks ago bemoaned our “inconvenient Constitution.” At first, I thought that merely an unfortunate phrase – something akin to “annoying laws” or “bothersome principles” – but was surprised when I did a Google search that resulted in thousands of hits on the same idea. Seems as though a lot of people look upon the First Amendment as an irksome thing; indeed, several authors cited their belief that if put to a popular vote, most people would today not endorse the freedoms granted by the Bill of Rights.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Featured Guest Blogger Sarah Hinchliff Pearson

Speaking from the Shadows: How the Internet Has Changed the Meaning of "Anonymous"

The First Amendment right to speak anonymously is well-established, and, at various times throughout American history, it has protected some of the most important speech in our political discourse. But anonymous speech also has a dark underbelly, which has been transformed and cultivated by the Internet. Courts attempt to balance these conflicting dynamics on a case-by-case basis and, not surprisingly, the result is inconsistency and uncertainty.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Should Airport Security Officials be Able to Search the Content of Your Phone and Computer Laptop?

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Says "No"

A recent article in Legal Times outlined a Fourth Amendment claim against airport security officers for searching the contents of laptop computers "without susipcion of wrongdoing." the complaint asserts that “electronic devices like laptops, ‘smart’ phones, and external data storage devices hold vast amounts of personal and sensitive information that reveals a vivid picture of travelers’ personal and professional lives, including their intimate thoughts, private communications, expressive choices, and privileged or confidential work product."

Monday, September 13, 2010

“We were prepared to go to court and sue if they did not put them up. Having a gun is a constitutional right.”

Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, speaking about ads promoting gun ownership that his organization succesfully placed at the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency's busstops despite the Agency's policy of not promoting guns. Ironically, earlier this year the MTA had forced the makers of the movie “The Other Guys” starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell to alter an ad for their movie so that the two stars held cans of pepper spray instead of guns. But the Supreme Court's pro-gun-rights ruling in McDonald v Chicago, the controversaial gun rights case, has made the agency rethink its policy. Gottlieb is quoted in an article about the subject in the New York Times.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What You Can Learn From Studying the Tea Leaves Left by Supreme Court Clerks

For most of the Supreme Court's history, the job of Supreme Court clerk has been both prized and private. There has long been suspicion that the clerks -- who are among the most promising recent graduates from the top law schools around the country -- wield enormous power, sifting the cert pile to advance one case over another for the Court to consider, writing the rough drafts of opinions and, as rumored in some cases, the final drafts of opinions from justices who may not want to work that hard anymore. Still, all clerks are wed to a tradition of secrecy. A clerk works for a justice and then departs, never to utter a word about what went on while he or she was there.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What the Constitution Really Has to Say About the Ground Zero Mosque

As I listen to the debate on the Ground Zero mosque, engage friends and neighbors on the subject, and read editorials in what I hoped would be a more enlightened press, it is disturbing to see so much ignorance of, or indifference to, the Constitution and constitutional values.

Let's begin with the argument that the mosque must be allowed to be built because the First Amendment protects religious freedom. Yes, there is no doubt that the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion – all religion -- and there should be no debate on whether the leaders of the mosque have the right to build it. They do. But so many, including Mayor Bloomberg of New York, think that the argument should end there. They see those who object to the mosque as hostile to the great American tradition of religious tolerance; indeed, I watched the Mayor on the Jon Stewart show a couple of weeks ago pompously pronouncing this fact to a rewarding round of applause. To which I can only react by asking, “just how much of the First Amendment, Mr. Mayor, have you read?”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Constitution in "Quotes"

“They always say that I must abide by laws and constitutions...I know what is in laws and in constitutions, but what we have here in Egypt is neither laws nor constitution."

Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, on the political situation in his homeland where 82 year old President Hosni Mubarak, who has been president since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, is widely believed to be readying his son, Gamal, to soon become his successor.