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Make No Law: The First Amendment Podcast

Ken White explores the background of important First Amendment cases and the personalities and history that led to them. Join Ken, First Amendment litigator and law blogger at Popehat.com, as he interviews some of the people behind America’s most important free speech cases.

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On The Job

When Richard Ceballos, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County, expressed concern about the validity of a search warrant in 2000, he discovered the fuzzy line between free speech rights and the need for government entities to maintain workplace discipline.Ken White explores the Garcetti v. Ceballos case, the results of which saddle government employees with a tough decision when reporting misconduct to their superiors.

23mins

14 Feb 2018

Rank #1

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Fire in a Crowded Theater

“You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” is one of the most commonly used First Amendment catchphrases -- but does it really support exceptions to free speech? The answer to this question can be found in the writings of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. He penned the phrase in 1919, not to justify moderate limits on speech, but to justify government prosecution of those speaking out against the draft.

28mins

28 Jun 2018

Rank #2

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Crush

The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 was an animal cruelty prevention law aimed at videos showing women in high heels crushing small animals. But it ended up being used to target Robert Stevens instead. United States v. Stevens is a landmark case that may be the most important First Amendment decision of the 21st Century so far. We examine the case and the question of whether the government can continually come to the Supreme Court with potential exceptions to the First Amendment.

36mins

12 Apr 2018

Rank #3

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Street

In June of 1966, Sidney Street heard the news that James Meredith, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, had been shot on the second day of his March Against Fear. Street, an African American himself, burned the flag and was arrested. Street declared, “If they let that happen to Meredith, we don’t need an American flag.” So sparked the question of whether the government can punish someone for using words to defile or disrespect an American flag.

32mins

16 May 2018

Rank #4

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Disparagement, Contempt, and Disrepute

Simon Tam named his band “The Slants” as a form of self empowerment, but ran into problems when he tried to tried to register the name as a trademark, and ended up taking the case to the Supreme Court. We examine the Matal v. Tam case in which the Supreme Court vindicated Simon Tam and The Slants, finding that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act -- which allows the PTO to deny trademarks it finds offense -- violates the First Amendment.

26mins

15 Mar 2018

Rank #5