Short Answer: It depends (my favorite two words as a lawyer).
Fuller Answer: Isolated heckles by an individual are protected speech under the First Amendment. But an intentional and sustained effort to disrupt a lawful public assembly by heckling the speaker is unlawful in many states–and it should be. Eugene Volokh, a leading First Amendment scholar, explains the law in this helpful article.
For folks interested in really thinking hard about whether a wedding cake baker can refuse, on First Amendment grounds, to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, Prof. Andrew Koppleman offers this thoughtful article on the subject. Here’s his opening paragraph:
On December 5, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the case in which a baker claims that free speech protects his right to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Although it is impossible to know how the Court will rule, I can confidently predict that if the baker wins, the justices’ explanation will be incoherent.
After a week of reruns, CT-N is back on the air today after the Office of Legislative Management hired some former employees of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN), the non-profit that operated CT-N since 1999. Legislative leadership says that CT-N, which is operating under a radically reduced budget, will focus its cameras on the General Assembly, largely to the exclusion of the executive and judicial branches. Leaderships says that this narrow focus is consistent with CT-N’s original mission. But as Christine Stuart reports today on CT News Junkie, leadership’s understanding of CT-N’s original mission is just plain wrong. Coverage of all three branches of state government was always part of CT-N’s mission.
I enjoy reading historical Connecticut legal documents. The quotation below appears at the beginning of Book I of the 1808 Connecticut Statutes. Oh, what a contrast to today’s General Assembly. I dare say our elected representatives ought to read this to understand why Connecticut once truly warranted the moniker, “The Land of Steady Habits.”
CONNECTICUT, from the establishment of her government, has been politically happy. She has been distinguished, in this respect, from almost every nation on the globe. There is, moreover, a trait of national character, for which she has been equally distinguished. We allude to the unparalleled caution, with which her rulers have proceeded, in the passing of new laws, and the adoption of new measures. That the former has regularly resulted from the latter, is a truth, of which those who form opinions, by examining facts, can have little doubt. Experimental philosophy had been taught, and recommended, by Lord Bacon, before the emigration of our ancestors. Adopting the same mode of reasoning, they applied it steadily, and successfully, to legal polity. They seldom took a step in legislation, till experience had evinced its necessity. They then provided for the immediate exigency, but for nothing more. Hence, our system of jurisprudence has, in a very strict sense, grown with the growth of our country, The caution of our primitive legislators resulted neither from incapacity to devise, nor want of courage to execute. Ludlow, Haynes, Hopkins, and Henry Wolcott were not weak, or timid men.
For nearly two decades, the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN) has operated CT-N, Connecticut’ s version of C-SPAN, providing neutral, unbiased coverage of all three co-equal branches of Connecticut state government. Now, due to an abject failure of leadership in the General Assembly, CT-N may shut down. At a time when it is more important than ever to keep the light shining on the operations of state government–which just negotiated a two-year, $41.3 billion budget in near total secrecy–leadership in the General Assembly wants to turn the lights off. [Click here to continue reading.]
Once again our elected representatives in Congress are engaged in political posturing over the so-called “debt ceiling.” For readers who want to know (a) how the debt ceiling really works and (b) why it is a complete charade/sham and ought to be abolished, check out Jack Balkin’s (Yale Law Prof) excellent post on the issue.
So what good is the debt ceiling? Well, the only people who use it are politicians who want to hold the United States hostage and threaten to crash the world economy. It has no other function at this point.
I’m always amazed at legislative proposals that just sort of “pop up” towards the end of a legislative session without much–or any–notice. One that caught my eye is a bill, which has already passed the Senate, which would repeal the licensing requirement for court reporters. (See section 5 of the bill.) Read the rest of this entry »
The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its decision today largely affirming a District Court ruling that struck down President Trump’s Executive Order Travel Ban. Here is the opening paragraph of the opinion:
The question for this Court, distilled to its essential form, is whether the Constitution, as the Supreme Court declared in Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2, 120 (1866), remains “a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace.” And if so, whether it protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge an Executive Order that in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.
Click here to read the rest of the opinion (although the courts’ ultimate legal conclusion ought to be fairly obvious. . . .) The case will likely end up in the Supreme Court.
UPDATE: Here’s another significant paragraph from the opinion. It reveals the critical role that the courts will play in ensuring that the Trump administration abides by the Constitution.
The Government has repeatedly asked this Court to ignore evidence, circumscribe our own review, and blindly defer to executive action, all in the name of the Constitution’s separation of powers. We decline to do so, not only because it is the particular province of the judicial branch to say what the law is, but also because we would do a disservice to our constitutional structure were we to let its mere invocation silence the call for meaningful judicial review. The deference we give the coordinate branches is surely powerful, but even it must yield in certain circumstances, lest we abdicate our own duties to uphold the Constitution.
This post, the first in quite a while, has nothing to do with the law. Truth is, it is a beautiful spring morning (finally!) and I just felt like sharing a little jazz waltz I wrote for my amazing, incredible, beautiful wife, Jennifer.
Relations between Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C. have deteriorated to the point that I see little chance of the following suggestion becoming reality. But because hope springs eternal, I offer it anyway. It is hardly novel.