Speaker Series on First Amendment Issues

Abrams Institute Conversations Series
Speaker Series on First Amendment Issues

The Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression at Yale Law School launched a new speaker series in spring 2021, “Abrams Institute Conversations” on pressing concerns about free speech and the First Amendment. Moderated by Floyd Abrams, this new series is made possible by generous support from the Stanton Foundation.


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Robert Post is Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School. He served as the School's 16th dean from 2009 until 2017.  Professor Post specializes in constitutional law, with a particular emphasis on the First Amendment.  Among his many incisive writings, he is the author of  Democracy, Expertise, Academic Freedom: A First Amendment Jurisprudence for the Modern State (2012), which was originally delivered as the Rosenthal Lectures at Northwestern University and For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom (with Matthew M. Finkin, 2009), which has become the standard reference for the meaning of academic freedom in the United States.   

Catherine Ross is Lyle T. Alverson Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School. She specializes in constitutional law (with particular emphasis on the First Amendment) and family law.  Her book A Right to Lie? Presidents, Other Liars, and the First Amendment (University of Pennsylvania Press) will be released in September 2021.  Her last book, Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students' First Amendment Rights (Harvard University Press, 2015) was named the Best Book on the First Amendment by Concurring Opinions’ First Amendment News; it also won the Critics’ Choice Book Award from the American Education Studies Association.

The topic of freedom of speech on campus is hardly a new one but the desirability of addressing it in a serious and sophisticated manner may never have been greater than at this time. Two scholars of particular distinction in this area of law and social policy, Professor Robert Post and Professor Catherine Ross, joined Floyd Abrams in this discussion.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

evelyn douek is a Lecturer on Law and S.J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, Associate Research Scholar at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. evelyn douek is a leading scholar of content moderation and platform governance. 

Noah Feldman is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and Director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law. Professor Feldman proposed the concept of an internal equivalent of a Supreme Court within Facebook which has been adopted by that company.

Richard L. Hasen is Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine.  Professor  Hasen is a leading legal expert on election law.

This Conversation featured issues surrounding the internet, elections and the First Amendment. Speakers discussed the consequences to a public sphere in which the Internet increasingly dominates public discourse.  The panelists, with Mr. Abrams, looking at varying decision-making and content moderation policies and practices within Facebook, Google and other substantial Internet operations, debated the value and potential efficacy of regulatory efforts, internal and external.      

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law in both Yale College and Yale Law School.  Professor Amar’s work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, and he has been cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in more than forty cases.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the author of more than a hundred law review articles and several books, most notably The Bill of Rights (1998), America’s Constitution (2005), America’s Unwritten Constitution (2012), and The Constitution Today (2016). His latest and most ambitious book, The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840, is due out in May 2021.

Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky is Dean of the University of Missouri School of Law and Judge C.A. Leedy Professor of Law.  Her research focuses on the intersection of tort law and the First Amendment, with a particular emphasis on free speech issues in social media.  Dean Lidsky previously served in a variety of leadership roles at the University of Florida, where she held the Stephen C. O’Connell Chair in Law and received a number of teaching awards during her 23-year tenure. She is co-reporter on the Restatement of Defamation and Privacy, co-author of a leading Media Law casebook, a First Amendment casebook, and a reference book on press freedom and has published dozens of articles, including most recently the California Law Review article, Considering the Context of Online Threats.

The second event surrounded the law of incitement and the First Amendment, which has made it to the headlines in the wake of the recent Capitol riot. Topics included partisan debates around whether former President Trump committed incitement. It also addressed the questions that were simmering long before January 6, 2021 – whether Brandenburg and the law of incitement are out of step with the reality of social media communications. The discussion focused on whether a different view of incitement might be necessary today – one that acknowledges the realities of online recruitment, motivation, organization and direction. Moreover, the panelists debated the extent to which the First Amendment compels us to tolerate an expanded understanding of incitement in the face of pressures to criminalize speech that results in violence.

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Thursday, January 21, 2020

Kathleen Sullivan is partner and founding chair of the national appellate practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. Before joining the firm in 2005, she served as Dean of Stanford Law School and taught a generation of students constitutional law as Professor of Law at Harvard and Stanford Law Schools. The first woman dean of any school at Stanford, she is also the first (and still the only) woman name partner at any AmLaw 100 firm. Widely recognized as one of the nation’s most preeminent appellate litigators, Ms. Sullivan has argued eleven times in the US Supreme Court and numerous times in the US Courts of Appeals, US district courts, and state appellate courts. She also continues to write on constitutional issues and to co-author the classic casebook Constitutional Law and its related casebook First Amendment Law.

Paul Smith is a Professor from Practice at the Georgetown Law Center and Vice President for Litigation and Strategy at the Campaign Legal Center. Until 2017 he was a partner at the firm of Jenner & Block LLP. Mr. Smith has had an active appellate practice, including 21 Supreme Court arguments, primarily involving civil rights and civil liberties issues. His important victories include Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark gay rights case, and Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n, establishing the First Amendment rights of those who produce and sell video games. He has also argued a long list of voting rights cases in the Supreme Court.

The conversation covered topics around donor disclosure, anonymity and the First Amendment. In particular, it focused on whether the federal or state governments require public disclosure of large contributors to charitable entities that fund advocacy on topics of public interest. The speakers focused on whether the First Amendment prevents the compelled disclosure of donors to private, non-profit organizations and whether the same rules apply to political organizations.