\Constitutional Rights Foundation--law related education.
  • Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decisions--this is the publication.
www.crf-usa.org

First Amendment--key phrases today:
  • Congress shall make no law
    • in the legal world, "shall" means "it has to be"--this is absolute. Congress is forbidden....
    • So absolutist language in the First Amendment.
  • Freedom of speech
    • Important in many senses--political speech; communication from society to government and vice versa; free flow of information in society; democratic society, and not a tyranny;
      • Watchdog on government (press)--people can criticize their government, and stop a tyranny from forming.
      • Free exchange of ideas in a democracy
      • Discovery of truth in all areas--political speech, religion, science
      • Personal development--outlet to express oneself, artistically, creatively, politically
      • "Safety valve"--if free speech is controlled by gov., then it could lead to an eruption; so safety valve needed to allow expression.
  • Fourteenth Amendment also protects free speech; incorporated the First Amendment over time (state governments can not prohibit free speech as well)

Texas v. Johnson
Flag burning case. As the case is read, consider:
  1. Exceptions to the right of free speech
    1. Clear and Present Danger Doctrine
    2. Fighting words
    3. Expressive conduct exception--not always verbal speech; controlling case in Johnson decision.
    4. Obscenity
    5. Libel or slander
  2. The facts of the case Texas v. Johnson
    1. Summary of facts---1984. Johnson burning a flag in Texas, in protest of Ronald Reagan at the Republican National Convention. There was a law n Texas against the burning of the American Flag.
  3. The differing opinions in the case.
    1. 5-4 majority in favor of Johnson--including the very conservative Justice Scalia. Flag burning was allowed based on this decision.
Moot Court Activity:
  1. Take on one of four roles
    1. Attorney for the State of Texas
    2. Attorney for Johnson--arguing law is not constitutional.
    3. Supreme Court Justice
    4. Supreme Court Justice
Procedure
  1. Students for each role meet in groups to discuss their arguments.
  2. Hearing (from the big groups, one member from each group will make smaller groups to argue the case)
    1. Justices will conduct the hearing.
    2. Attorney's for the state will speak first (challenging the lower court decision).
    3. The justice may ask questions at any time.
    4. At the end, the justice should withhold any opinion about the case.
  3. Justices
    1. Think about the arguments.
    2. Decide the case: Does the Texas Law against flag burning violate the First Amendment?
    3. Give reasons for your decision.
Damon Huss
damon@crf-usa.org