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Case Problems Involving the First Amendment

Assignment 1: Case Problems Involving the First Amendment
COM 440/POL S 461 Assignment 1: Spring 2016

One of the best ways to learn the rules of law is to apply them to hypothetical situations. That’s why I’m asking you to analyze one case problem with several parts involving material discussed in Lessons 1 and 2 (including the discussion forums) and chapters 1 -3 of the textbook. Please refer to Practice Exercise 2-2 for examples of this type of legal analysis.

The first step is to read the facts of the case problem carefully and e-mail me if you have any questions. The next step is to identify the correct area (or category) of law that is applicable to each question of the case problem. In other words, does the question deal with sedition or fighting words or prior restraint or time, place and manner rules or another area (or category) of law covered in Lesson 2? This part of the analysis is essential because the legal rules differ depending on the area of law under consideration. Once you determine the area/category of law that’s applicable (and sometimes it’s given), then the last step is to apply the correct legal rules to the facts of the case problem and to state your conclusions. Here’s the case hypothetical, followed by instructions on how to prepare your assignment.

Case Hypothetical

Let’s assume that Gloria Santos is the Green Party nominee, campaigning for the open congressional seat held by Representative Jim McDermott, who decided not to run for re- election this year. People opposing her candidacy have already created a website dedicated to her defeat. The website’s domain name is GloriaSantosforCongress.com, and it is the first website that comes up in an Internet search for information about her candidacy. The website labels her a Communist and includes false statements about her positions on the environment, workers’ rights, low-income housing and police accountability, among other issues. The website also attacks her character and fitness to hold political office, calling her a liar, a thief and an illegal immigrant. It promises to publish detailed accounts of her anti-business policies and illegal activities throughout the campaign season.

Gloria Santos and her supporters are outraged and contact the city prosecutor, who is her friend, asking for his help in shutting down the website. The city prosecutor asks a local judge to order the website’s creator to shut down the website immediately before most voters become aware of it because of its lies, deception and character assassination.

  1. Would such an order be constitutional? In other words, should the local judge, using equity law, order the website’s creator to shut down the website? First, identify the specific area (category) of law that directly relates to this situation; second,

identify the theory or interpretation of the First Amendment that is most

applicable to this type of situation; third, apply the relevant legal rules; and,

fourth, explain your conclusion. (35 points)

Continuing this case hypothetical, let’s assume that Gloria Santos’ supporters want to hold a political rally in Red Square on the UW-Seattle campus from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, Memorial Day. They asked the appropriate university administrators for a permit, and some administrators expressed concern that people would assume that the university was supporting her candidacy if they allowed the political rally in Red Square.

  1. Should university administrators allow this political rally? In other words, would this political rally be constitutionally protected under the First Amendment? First, identify the specific area (category) of law that relates to this situation; second, apply the correct legal rules to the facts of the case problem; and, third, explain your conclusion. (25 pts)

Let’s assume Santos’ supporters did hold the political rally, and Santos spoke at it. During her speech, she called for a political revolution where ordinary citizens would unite to overthrow the billionaires and capitalists who control this country’s economy and political system. Several opponents to her candidacy attended the rally and were offended by her call for a revolution. One man shouted that she and her supporters should be arrested for sedition because they were advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government and the country’s economic system.

  1. Should Santos and her supporters be arrested for sedition? In other words, would such arrests be constitutional? Please apply the correct legal rules and explain your conclusion. (20 pts)

Another man yelled that Santos was a dangerous Communist and would be a threat to the Seattle way of life if she were elected to Congress. He then tried to push his way to the podium, and when two of her supporters stopped him, he screamed insults directly at them for several minutes. Several bystanders urged police officers on the scene to arrest the man for fighting words.

  1. Should the police arrest the man for fighting words under these circumstances? In other words, would such arrests be constitutional? Please apply the correct legal rules and explain your conclusion. (20 pts)

Here’s how to prepare and submit your assignment.

Create a Word document and enter your full name at the beginning of your assignment.
Begin each of your answers with the specific question number that you’re answering. For example, when you answer question 1, please start your answer with “Question 1.” or 1. This will help me grade your assignment.
Refer back to the question after you finish a draft of your answer to make sure that you answered the question completely and didn’t get side tracked into discussing other unrelated areas of media law.
Proofread carefully (double-check spelling, grammar, accuracy).
Upload your assignment to the website. You are responsible for making sure that your assignment is posted on the website by the deadline so please double check

that it uploaded successfully. If you have trouble uploading your assignment,

please e-mail me before the deadline.
6. Save a copy of your work in case something happens to the uploaded file.

i can give a example for this type of legal analysis

The student editor of theMountain High Gazette, a monthly newspaper published in print and online as part of a journalism class at the local public school, has written a thoughtful article about abortion and teenage pregnancy. The article includes interviews with two current students,each of whom describes her problems as a teenage mother and full-time student.It also contains an interview with a third student who talks about her decision to have an abortion. All three students are willing to be identified in the article. The article is balanced and carefully researched. The faculty adviser approves the contents of the article, but the principal overrules his decision,saying the article is inappropriate for a school paper and should not be published. The principal fears that the students named in the story will be bullied by other students and harshly criticized by parents. The students identified want to share their stories to help other young people in similar situations. The student editor believes that the principal is violating her First Amendment rights by censoring the story. Does the principal have the authority to stop the publication of the article? Why or why not?
Assume that a city council in Washington State has adopted the following ordinance: “The mayor shall have the authority to impose reasonable restrictions on groups that use the city’s parks for activities critical of the U.S. military.” Would this ordinance be constitutional? Why or why not?

  1. With any type of legal analysis, it’s important to address all of the elements before reaching a conclusion. In a case involving censorship of a student newspaper and website, the first question that should be asked is: “Is the newspaper/website published at a public or private high school?” The second question, assuming it’s a public school, is “what kind of newspaper/website is it?” In this case problem, the facts state thatMountain High Gazetteis a public school and that the newspaper/website is part of a journalism class. Given these facts, theHazelwoodruling applies,which gives school administrators the authority to censor student media for what the courts have broadly defined as “legitimate pedagogical concerns.” It is likely that the principal does have the authority to censor the article.

  2. This is an example of time, place, and manner restrictions. The first step is to determine the type of forum. Courts have ruled that public parks are considered traditional public forums. Given that designation, you then need to apply the test for evaluating time, place and manner restrictions to the ordinance. The criteria are as follows: 1) the rule must be content neutral; 2)the rule must not constitute a complete ban on communication; 3) the rule must be justified by a substantial state interest; and4) the rule must be narrowly tailored. The ordinance is not constitutional for many reasons. First, it is not content neutral because it limits only speech and activities critical of the U.S.military. Second, it is overly broad because it limits activities in all public parks. Third, the city has not demonstrated that it serves a substantial state interest. Fourth, it’s vague because it doesn’t define what activities are covered and what constitutes a group; and it gives too much discretion to the mayor to determine what would be a “reasonable restriction” in administering the law.


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