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Legal Update Archives — 2001

Below are archived updates regarding legal issues affecting individual freedoms: U.S. Supreme Court • First Amendment Cases • Other Noteworthy Cases.

Controversy Over Race-Based Admission Policies Continues

Lawsuits challenging the use of race-based admission policies by state universities are continuing to move through the court system...[more]

Government as Private Profit Center

With government budgets shrinking and contributions to private organizations shifting, government and private entities are looking for increased opportunities to generate revenue. Some have turned to existing laws and our courts to find these revenue sources...[more]

State v. Oakley: Deadbeat Dads and the Right to Procreate

by Tom Goldstein, esq.: The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent opinion in State v. Oakley, No. 99-3328-CR (Wis. July 20, 2001), presents important and novel questions regarding how far the government may go in imposing a criminal sanction or condition of parole that restricts an individual’s ability to have children...[more]

First Amendment Umbrella Shields Online Journalists

In a resounding First Amendment victory for Internet media, a New York state court ruled on December 10, 2001, that online journalists have the same heightened protections against charges of libel as their print and broadcast media counterparts...[more]

Entertainment Industry Wins Its Day in Court

For those following the debate over "free speech" vs. intellectual property rights on the Internet, Wednesday, November 28, 2001, was a day to remember. What occurred was a confluence of legal decisions from federal courts in New York and New Jersey that dealt a severe blow to those seeking to overturn key provisions of the much-maligned Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)...[more]

Vanessa Leggett Redux

We do not know what is meant by pundits who proclaim the "death of irony," post 9-ll. To us, the height of irony is an American journalist in an American jail, put there in July by a Justice Department which now seeks expanded powers to battle terrorism, while pledging not to trample civil liberties…[more]

To read the legal brief in this case, click here.

Barbie, a Blender, and the First Amendment

Barbie, America’s first lady of plastic, has recently found herself the subject of a nude photo shoot in what some would call compromising positions. And, a federal judge recently ruled that the pictures of the buxom blonde are protected by the First Amendment, therefore, her sometimes over-protective parent, toy manufacturer Mattel, can do nothing to stop them...[more]

Court Allows Minute of Silence to Continue in Virginia Schools

A federal appeals court ruled that a Virginia law implementing a mandatory minute of silence in public schools is constitutional. A panel from the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 opinion in the case Brown v. Gilmore, rejecting a constitutional challenge to the Commonwealth’s "minute of silence" law...[more]

Judicial Candidates Take Free Speech Case to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced on December 3rd to decide whether candidates for judicial office may run full-scale political campaigns. The case, Republican Party of Minnesota v. Kelly (No. 01-521), arrives at the Supreme Court from an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision which upheld a Minnesota canon of judicial ethics restricting on the content of campaign speech by candidates for elective judicial office...[more]

Continuing Challenges to First Amendment Rights

The United States Supreme Court has long recognized the critical value that society has placed on free speech. Both the First Amendment itself and Supreme Court cases interpreting it afford maximum protection to certain forms of speech, including direct speech and association...[more]

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Reverses Itself on Campaign Finance

Under order of the United States Supreme Court, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit revisited an earlier decision in a campaign finance case challenging limits placed on contsibutions from political parties to candidates...[more]

US Supreme Court Allows Washington State Anti-Spam Law to Stand

On October 29, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Washington State’s law restricting unsolicited commercial e-mail ("Spam"), allowing to stand a ruling by the Washington Supreme Court that the 1998 law was constitutional..[more]

Supreme Court Update - Week of October 29, 2001

Amid apprehension of anthrax contamination, the Supreme Court announced on Monday three cases chosen for this term’s docket. Since then, the Supreme Court Building has been closed, and the Justices have been hearing oral arguments in a ceremonial courtroom at the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. With another anthrax related blip affecting its schedule, the Court has postponed granting review to any additional cases until next week Friday...[more]

Supreme Court Update - Week of October 15, 2001

It’s the middle of October and the US Supreme Court continues to stay busy granting review in a number of cases. This week, the Court added three more cases to the docket...[more]

Supreme Court Preview (October Term 2001)

On September 25, 2001, the US Supreme Court returned to work from its summer recess and rolled up its sleeves for what may prove to be a landmark term. The Justices sat for what is called their long conference to decide which cases they would hear out of the hundreds that had been filed over the summer...[more]

Supreme Court Grants Future Generations Right
To Challenge Unreasonable Limits on Land Use and Value

The United States Supreme Court closed its 2000 term with a favorable decision for property rights, albeit a somewhat lengthy set of confusing opinions that provides only a partial victory for the property owner... [more]

Appeals Court Halts Microsoft Breakup; Disqualifies District Judge

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has reversed U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s ruling to split Microsoft into two companies... [more]

Supreme Court Hands a Victory to Free-lance Writers in Copyright Case

In a dispute involving the application of copyright law to the digital age, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in New York Times v. Tasini that free-lance writers own the rights to their works that were initially published in print editions and subsequently distributed electronically...[more]

New Twist in The Cell Phone Wars

The latest legal and legislative bell ringer involves the use of hand held cell phones while driving. On December 1, New York will become the first state to ban the use of such devices while driving an automobile. Meanwhile, more than 38 other states are considering some type of restrictions of their own on cell phones and driving... [more]

Supreme Court Rejects First Amendment Challenge to Party Spending Limits

In a very close decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold party limits on coordinated expenditures. The Court found that limiting coordinated spending by a party does not impose a unique First Amendment burden on parties and that coordinated expenditures of unlimited money donated to a party dilute and therefore undermine the contribution limits... [more]

Supreme Court Finds Mandatory Ad Campaign Unconstitutional

In the long-awaited decision in United States v. United Foods, Inc., the Supreme Court took significant strides in undoing some of the damage caused by its much-criticized 1997 decision in Glickman v. Wileman Brothers & Elliot. In scoring a victory for the First Amendment, The Court held, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that a federal statute requiring mushroom growers to pay for generic advertisements to promote mushrooms violated the First Amendment by compelling support for speech with which at least some of the growers disagreed…[more]

Alabama Supreme Court Rules That Campaign Speech Restrictions on Judicial Candidates Violate the First Amendment

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of Supreme Court Justice Harold See on May 15, 2001, stating that Canon 7B.(2) of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics is facially unconstitutional and that Canon 2A is unconstitutional as applied in Justice See’s case against the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC)... [more]

The Race to End Race as a Factor in Achieving Educational Diversity is Canceled (Temporarily?)

On May 29, 2001, the United States Supreme Court declined to get involved in a race-based admissions policy case. By denying certiorari in Smith v. University of Washington School of Law (No. 00-1341) the Court let stand the lower court’s decision that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution permits university admissions programs which consider race and that educational diversity is a compelling governmental interest... [more]

Federal Court Rules First Amendment Protects Professor's Right to Post Fliers at University

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that former University of Montana-Northern theater professor Douglas Giebel’s free speech rights were violated when fellow professor Stephen Sylvester tore down Giebel’s handbills[more]

Giebel v. Sylvester: The Plaintiffs StoryI
In his own words, Doug Giebel recounts the intriguing story behind his case…

Alaska’s Limit on Contributions to Political Parties Ruled Unconstitutional

In a victory for the First Amendment, a federal judge recently ruled that Alaska’s $5,000 limit on soft money contributions to political parties is unconstitutional…[more]

Update: Federal Judge Strikes Down Alaska's "Soft Money" Ban

U.S. District Judge James Singleton on June 11 struck down a section of Alaska’s political contributions law that banned corporate and union contributions to political parties ("soft money contributions"). Finding the ban violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Judge Singleton ruled that corporations and unions can give unlimited amounts of "soft money" to political parties, as long as none of the money goes towards getting specific candidates elected. According to Judge Singleton, contributions to a political party do not raise undue influence issues. However, the judge let stand Alaska’s ban against corporate contributions to individual candidates.

This decision reverses in part an April 10th opinion from this judge, wherein he found it constitutional to ban corporate contributions. There was no indication why he changed his mind.

The assistant attorney general indicated that the state would appeal the decision.

State Class Action Crisis Continues With Microsoft

The nation is currently engulfed in a huge state class action crisis, which continues to get worse. Following in the wake of the millions of dollars earned" by lawyers in the tobacco cases, lawyers are lining up in front of courthouses to file consumer class action cases against Microsoft. . . . following Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s decision ordering the break-up of Microsoft and restrictions on certain of its business practices, over 100 consumer state class actions have been filed…[more]

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments In Commercial Speech Case

What follows is the Center's first-hand account of the April 17 oral arguments in United States v. United Foods, Inc.: As we were leaving the Supreme Court yesterday a bewildered looking tourist asked us if our noble Supreme Court was really concerning itself with the mundane issue of mushroom advertising. The answer is "yes." The reason, of course, goes much deeper...[more]

Tipping The Melting Pot In Higher Education: Judge Rules Affirmative Action Program Unconstitutional

A federal judge set the stage today for a renewed debate, perhaps even in the United States Supreme Court, over affirmative action programs in higher education. In the March 27th ruling from the U.S. District Court of Michigan, Southern Division, the judge found that the admission's system of the University of Michigan law school was unconstitutional because it considered an applicant's race... [more]

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in The New York Times v. Tasini

By Erik S. Jaffe: On Wednesday, March 28, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of The New York Times v. Tasini, No. 00-201, regarding whether the inclusion of electronic versions of a newspaper in a searchable database allowing recall and printing of individual articles violated the copyrights of freelance authors of such articles or instead simply constituted a "revision" of the collective work of the newspaper…[more]

Internet Filter Law Challenged

On March 20, 2001, two groups filed lawsuits in Philadelphia challenging the constitutionality of the Children’s Internet Protection Act. The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association are challenging the new federal law that, as of April 20, requires libraries that receive federal funding to utilize internet filtering software to block material that may be obscene or harmful to minors…[more]

Student Fees and the First Amendment

The University of Wisconsin at Madison was back in the news recently on the issue of student fees and whether or not their system for distributing the fees to campus groups violates compelled speech doctrine of the US Constitution…[more]

The 4 "Rs" Of Elementary Education: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Religion

The United States Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the equal access case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School, No. 99-2036. This case is heard on appeal from the 2nd Circuit decision that a New York elementary school policy limiting all religious use of its facilities was reasonable because the exclusion was viewpoint neutral and did not violate the free speech clause…[more]

Cell Phone Privacy Rights v. Freedom of the Press

The Bartnicki v. Vopper case before the US Supreme Court raises some serious questions about where to draw the line between personal privacy and freedom of the press. The Court heard oral arguments in December, and is now faced with the task of sorting out privacy issues surrounding third-party taping of private cellular phone conversations and the right of the press to disseminate information of public interest…[more]

Ohio's State Motto Upheld

On March 16, 2001, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled 9-4 that Ohio's 42 year-old state motto, "With God, all things are possible," is constitutional. The Court ruled that the motto does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which forbids Congress from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion…" [more]

Modern Campaign Finance Debate

It is without a doubt true that the courts are becoming the ultimate arbiters of many issues affecting our political process. Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, No. 00-91, is the sequel to a 1996 Supreme Court decision wherein the Court held that political parties, like individuals, have a First Amendment right to engage in independent expenditures…[more]

"Regulatory Takings" under the Fifth Amendment

The United States Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in a case that could have significant impact on the treatment of "regulatory takings" under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In Palazzolo v. Rhode Island (99-2047), the Supreme Court is urged by Petitioner to set reasonable parameters on establishing the availability of compensation under the Takings Clause when regulation goes too far…[more]

Freelance Writers' Copyright Case Before Supreme Court

On March 28, 2001, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in The New York Times Co., et al. v. Tasini, et al., (No. 00-201). The Court will have to consider whether a publisher of a newspaper or periodical has the right to electronically disseminate articles which have appeared in prior print editions without seeking additional permission from the freelance authors…[more]

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