Supremely interesting court cases

Please forgive that terrible pun.

My first session on Friday was led by two gentlemen from the First Amendment Center. They talked about the cases currently on the Supreme Court’s docket that pertain to First Amendment issues and the different elements that brought these cases about. I’ll list them:

  • US v. Alvarez. This is also known as the “stolen valor” case. It is illegal for someone to lie about serving in the military or to lie about details about their service (like saying they were awarded medals, etc.). The Alvarez side is arguing that the speech, even though it is false, is protected under the First Amendment.
  • Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC. A teacher and minister tried to get her job back under the Americans with Disabilities Act following a medically-necessary leave of absence. The church refused, and said that churches are not subject to the same employment laws as other entities. This tests the limits of separation of church and state.
  • FCC v. Fox. The FCC has different standards for what can appear on broadcast networks and what can appear on cable television. Fox says that’s not fair and they shouldn’t be subject to government censorship. The FCC also wants to significantly increase fines for violating rules it lays out, so if they win, networks could stand to lose a lot of money if they don’t comply with the rules.
  • US v. Jones. On the surface, this appears to be a Fourth Amendment issue, protecting citizens from unlawful search and seizure. But, it’s actually a First because this is about a police department using a tracker on a suspect’s truck to track his movements. This violated his “right” to “practical obscurity” and is linked to the right to assembly. The government cannot “chill” a person’s right to assembly by intimidating them by tracking their whereabouts. Essentially, the First Amendment also protects privacy, and that’s the argument here.
  • Golan v. Holder. This is a copyright law issue. The government has been placing copyrights on items that have already entered public domain
Obviously, there’s a lot of First Amendment issues at stake this year in the Court.
The other topic the pair talked about is best illustrated with a diagram:
A few other things to look out for in Supreme Court-land in the near future: more on campaign finance laws and a return to the Westboro Baptist Church funeral protest issue (yes, they can say that stuff, but can they say it at funerals in plain sight of the family, causing them emotional harm?).
-Rachel Southmayd
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