Professor Brian Murchison was guest speaker on August 23, 2012, at a meeting of the Federal Bar Association’s chapter in Roanoke. Professor Murchison’s talk, entitled “The 2011 Term: Momentous Struggle for the Center,” addressed the recently concluded Term of the U.S. Supreme Court. Among the cases discussed by Professor Murchison were Zivotofsky v. Clinton, involving the political question doctrine and executive branch policy on the sovereignty of Jerusalem; United States v. Jones, the Fourth Amendment case involving a GPS tracking device; National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the Term’s major case, addressing the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Miller v. Alabama, the Eighth Amendment-based challenge to mandatory sentences of juveniles convicted of murder to life imprisonment without opportunity for parole; United States v. Alvarez, the challenge to the Stolen Valor Act on First Amendment grounds; two cases involving contested federal enforcement efforts, Sackett v. EPA and Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC; and Arizona v. United States, where the Court ruled on federal pre-emption of Arizona’s controversial immigration law.
Professor Brian Murchison, the Charles S. Rowe Professor of Law, recently spoke at the Washington and Lee Institute for Honor, which took place on March 2-3 and brought together journalists, professors, students, alumni, and other interested persons for a program entitled “The New Conversation: How Are the News Media Shaping Our Political Beliefs?”
The title of Murchison’s talk was “New Media, Old Media, and Media In Between: Variations in First Amendment Disputes.” Examining the current media landscape, Murchison contrasted illustrative legal disputes affecting the traditional print and broadcast media (“old media”), avenues of expression on the internet (“new media”), and developing media such as 24/7 cable programming and talk radio. As an example of a current case involving old media, Murchison discussed federal prosecutors’ efforts to obtain the testimony of New York Times reporter James Risen in a criminal case brought against an ex-CIA employee, Jeffrey Sterling, accused of unauthorized disclosure of national security information. The case exemplified the professional norms of old media, including investigative reporting and reliance on confidential sources of information. Turning to transitioning media, Murchison discussed libel actions brought against a Fox morning show and against liberal talk show host Randi Rhodes. In both, the courts commented on the hyperbolic nature of speech on various cable and radio programs and found the challenged expression protected by the First Amendment. Finally, in discussing cases typical of the new media, Murchison explored cases brought against bloggers and website commentators who post sometimes harsh opinions and wish to remain anonymous. Murchison outlined the protections afforded them by the First Amendment, protections that are not without limits.
Professor Brian Murchison, the Charles S. Rowe Professor of Law, posts here about his reaction and thoughts on the recently decided U.S. Supreme Court Case, Snyder v. Phelps. He also previewed the case last October here at the Faculty Scholarship Blog.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Snyder v. Phelps was consistent with First Amendment precedent; the Court’s 8-1 vote on the merits was perfectly plausible and not unexpected.
The facts are well known. A fringe church crudely exploited the occasion of a deceased Marine’s memorial service. The group gathered in a space permitted by police, some 1,000 feet from the church, without breaching the peace or disrupting the service, and their signs expressed a message that many thought bizarre — that God kills soldiers to punish the United States for condoning homosexuality. When the Marine’s father sued the church group for intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy caused by the speech, a jury in Maryland awarded him a significant amount of damages. The Fourth Circuit reversed on First Amendment grounds, ruling among other things that the challenged speech was non-actionable hyperbole.
The Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth Circuit’s result. Read more…
Each year, the W&L Law chapter of the American Constitution Society sponsors a Supreme Court Preview, where law faculty discuss some of the key cases on the U.S. Supreme Court docket for the upcoming term. During the panel discussion, W&L professors frame the important issues of the case and explain the routes the cases took through the lower courts before being accepted for review by the Court.
This year’s preview is Tuesday, Oct 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall. Presenting during the event will be:
- Professor Brian Murchison, who will discuss Snyder v. Phelps and its potential implications on First Amendment jurisprudence.
- Professor Ann Massie, who will discuss Flores-Villar v. United States and the application of equal protection gender discrimination in the transfer of citizenship to children.
- Professor Joshua Fairfield, who will discuss Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Media Association and the constitutionality of California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors.
- Professor Bruck, who will discuss Connick v. Thompson and Skinner v. Switzer and issues of liability and evidence access in criminal cases.
In a “preview of the preview,” Profs. Bruck and Fairfield shared some thoughts about their respective cases in video interviews, which can be viewed below. We will post video of the entire panel discussion following the event.
Prof. Bruck on Connick v. Thompson and Skinner v. Switzer
Professor Joshua Fairfield on Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Media Association
Professor Brian Murchison, on Snyder v. Phelps and its potential implications on First Amendment jurisprudence.