A new lawsuit by the Chinese American Civil Rights Coalition has garnered national attention in the media where former President Donald Trump is being sued for his use of such terms as the “Chinese Virus,” “China Virus,” “Wuhan Flu,” and “Kung Flu.” What is most interesting about this lawsuit is how it is arguably meritless under both tort and constitutional law. However, there has been little pushback from a host of lawyers who have spent months calling for sanctions against Republican lawyers for filing lawsuits viewed legally or factually meritless. This lawsuit seems designed to amplify a public relations campaign without substantial legal support. The question is whether it states just enough to avoid sanctions and whether the Trump team wants to seek such sanctions under Rule 11. Trump is being sued in his official and personal capacities.
The New York Times is reporting that a Rutgers Law Professor and law student are under fire after the student reluctantly read the n-word in a 1993 legal opinion. It is the latest such controversy in high education.
We have been discussed two areas of concern for free speech in the United States: the increased monitoring of social media speech as grounds of discipline and the push to criminalize speech. Both of those concerns seem to have coalesced in the arrest of a Connecticut high school student accused of posting racist comments about a classmate. The case could present an important court test for this country in resisting the criminalization of speech that we have seen in Europe. Notably, we recently discussed a major ruling out of the Fourth Circuit to overturn the conviction of a man for using a racial slur in a shoe store.
The media went into a frenzy this weekend when the bonny Prince Harry gave a huge Hurrumpf to the First Amendment. On a show appropriately called “the Armchair Expert,” Harry declared the First Amendment “bonkers” and expressed frustration of how it protects the media in its “feeding frenzy” over his life. Harry’s criticism of the First Amendment can be dismissed as the unfamiliarity of a royal refugee. However, it is actually far more serious than that. Harry and his American wife Meghan Markle have attacked media rights in England and succeeded under the laws of the United Kingdom. They are now joining a growing anti-free speech and free press movement in the United States. Continue reading “The “Bonkers” Interview Of Bonny Prince Harry: Why The Attack On The First Amendment Should Concern Americans”
Mark Twain once said that “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” Professor Hannah Berliner Fischthal may have cause to question that pearl of wisdom after she was sacked by St. John’s University after reading a Twain passage using the n-word. While adjunct instructor explained to the class that the word would be used in the context of the work and hoped it would not offend anyone, she was still fired. This is not the first such controversy over academic freedom at St. John’s.
We have been discussing the effort in Congress to punish dissenting viewpoints among members on issues ranging from the Jan. 6th riot to the pandemic to racism. This has included sweeping calls for members to be disbarred or expelled for their criticism of the 2020 election or continued questioning of election irregularities. Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.) has been one of those calling for punishment of members who have the temerity to disagree with his view of the election or the riot. Now, Cicilline is asking Democratic colleagues to sign on to a resolution to censure three House Republicans who are accused mischaracterizing the Jan. 6 riot, including refusing to call it an “insurrection.” It is the latest attempt to regulate how members and others discuss issues, dictating viewpoints by controlling speech used to express views.
There is a new controversy over university speech codes with a “red light” rating given to the University of Wisconsin (Oshkosh) and its prohibition of “insulting” or “demeaning” comments, including insulting someone over their political views. Continue reading “Gosh Oshkosh: University of Wisconsin Bans Any Speech Deemed “Insulting” or Demeaning””
In a major but likely controversial victory for free speech, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the conviction of a retired Air Force colonel for using a racial epithet at the shoe store on the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia. Jules A. Bartow, who is white, was arrested after a bizarre and disgraceful exchange with an employee, including the use of the “n word” with the African American woman. The highly offensive and repugnant language of Bartow was denounced by the court, but the unanimous panel still reversed T.S. Ellis III, Senior District Judge of the Eastern District of Virginia on First Amendment grounds. Continue reading “Fourth Circuit Overturns Conviction Of Retired Air Force Colonel For Using Racial Slur”
Below is an updated version of my column in The Hill on Facebook’s decision to uphold the ban on former president Donald Trump. Notably, this weekend, Twitter took it upon itself to add a gratuitous response to an observation made by Donald Trump Jr. after he tweeted “Biden isn’t the next FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] he’s the next Jimmy Carter.” Twitter took it upon itself to say that many are “confused” by the remark since Carter was a great humanitarian and noble prize winner. It was a telling moment. These companies now act as either censors as officious intermeddlers when it comes to comments made on the platforms. They view themselves as a party to any postings and that viewpoints must be corrected or clarified to advance the corporate position.
Here is the column:
Mount Allison University Professor Rima Azar feels a strong identification to Canada. Born in Lebanon during a civil war, Azar developed a lasting appreciation for the freedoms of Canada, particularly free speech. An accomplished academic in the field of health psychology, she often discusses her views of political and social issues on her personal blog Bambi’s Afkar from her unique perspective. However, she recently ran afoul of an individual who spotted comments denying that Canada is a racist country and criticizing Black Lives Matter as an organization. The individual compiled an array of what was viewed to be objectionable positions and triggered a movement to have Azar fired. In a direct attack on free speech and academic freedom, the University then suspended Azar without pay. Continue reading “Professor Suspended After Denying Canada is a Racist Country and Criticizing BLM”
There is an interesting First Amendment case brewing in New York after an appellate ruled that a mother identified as Christie could lose custody of her daughter unless she removes a rock with a small confederate flag image on it in the driveway. The child is of mixed races and the court has deemed the display as inimical to the best interests of the child. The family court judge did not make such a determination and the ruling raises a very serious free speech concern over conditioning a right to custody on the curtailment of political speech. As will come as no surprise to regulars on this blog, I view the order as an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment.
We recently discussed the controversy at Cypress College involving a professor becoming irate after student, Braden Ellis, stated that he felt police officers are heroes in our society. The College later put the teacher on leave. Now the faculty union at Cypress College has denounced the school for “a failure to be anti-racist” in its treatment of the teacher. I agree that a professor should not be fired or even suspended over such an incident, though the issue for me is academic freedom. However, there is a notable omission in the statement from Christie Diep, president of United Faculty of the North Orange County Community College District, and Mohammad M. Abdel Haq, its lead negotiator: a criticism of the professor for her overtly hostile and biased treatment of the student. Continue reading ““A Failure To Be Anti-Racist”: Faculty Denounce Cypress College Over Suspension Of Professor In Anti-Police Diatribe”
We have been discussing the termination of public employees and others for their postings on social media or public displays. The latest case is out of New Jersey where former Hopewell Township police officer Sara Erwin was fired recent over a June 2020 posting on Facebook in which she referred to Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters as “terrorists.” There remains an uncertain line of what political or social views are tolerated and what are barred on social media. Indeed, Sgt. Mandy Gray was suspended and demoted for simply liking the June 2020 post.
The decision of the board to uphold the decision to ban Trump but reconsider his lifetime ban may seem transparently convenient for many. However, there is precedent. One of my favorite trial accounts is from Ireland where an Irishman was accused by an Englishman of stealing a pair of boots. The guilt of the defendant was absolutely clear but the Irish jury could not get itself to rule for the Englishman. Instead, it acquitted the Irishman but added a line, “We do believe O’Brien should give the Englishman back his boots.” Case closed. Continue reading “Facebook Upholds Trump Ban But Admits Permanent Ban Lacked Any Objective Standard”