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Please join us for a conversation on the meaning of the press clause, what rights it uniquely conveys, and who is entitled to claim its protections. How the courts come to understand and apply the press clause in a drastically changing media environment will have far-reaching implications for everything from how journalists operate, to how they are funded and, ultimately, what the public knows. Addressing these issues has taken on an immediate urgency—and provoked great discord—as we are forced to resolve them in the specific contexts of criminal cases such as the Espionage Act prosecution of Julian Assange and the search warrants executed at the home of James O’Keefe and other Project Veritas staffers. At our next lunch time conversation, Floyd Abrams will explore with a leading scholar of the First Amendment, Sonja West, and the founding general manager of ProPublica, Richard Tofel, what is at stake and how we ought to think about these issues.
Richard Tofel was the founding general manager of ProPublica and served as its president until September 2021. In this role, he had responsibility for all of ProPublica’s non-journalism operations, including communications, legal, development, finance and budgeting, and human resources. He was formerly the assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal and, earlier, an assistant managing editor of the paper, vice president, corporate communications for Dow Jones & Company, and an assistant general counsel of Dow Jones. He is the author of more than a dozen book, including “Not Shutting Up: A Year of Reflections on Journalism” (2020); “‘A Federal Offense of the Highest Order’: The True Story of How the Joint Chiefs Spied on Nixon, And How He Covered It Up” (2019); “Speaking Truth in Power: Lessons for Our Sorry Politics from Our Inspiring History” (2018); and “Why American Newspapers Gave Away the Future” (2012).
Sonja R. West is the Otis Brumby Distinguished Professor in First Amendment Law at the University of Georgia where she specializes in constitutional law, media law and the U.S. Supreme Court. With a B.A. in journalism, West worked as a reporter in Illinois, Iowa, and Washington, D.C., before entering law school in Chicago, where she served as executive editor of The University of Chicago Law Review. She served as a judicial clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and worked for several years on First Amendment and intellectual property issues as an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Davis Wright Tremaine, before entering the academy. West received the 2017 Harry W. Stonecipher Award for Distinguished Research on Media Law and Policy from the Association for Education in Journalism and the National Communication Association’s 2016 Franklyn S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression. Her work has been published in numerous law reviews and she appears as a frequent commentator for various news media outlets.
Floyd Abrams is senior counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School. He is the author of three books about the First Amendment of which the most recent was “The Soul of the First Amendment“ (2017). Mr. Abrams has argued numerous cases involving the First Amendment in the Supreme Court and lower courts. Among others, he was co-counsel to the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case, counsel to the Brooklyn Museum in its litigation against New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and counsel to Senator Mitch McConnell in the Citizens United case. Former Yale Law School Dean Robert Post has observed that “no lawyer has exercised a greater influence on the development of First Amendment jurisprudence in the last four decades.”