Defending Free Speech in the Nation’s Capital

The Liberty & Law Center’s Free Speech Clinic provides robust, hands-on training for students seeking to become free speech advocates. The Clinic has two components: litigation and classroom instruction. This combination enhances students’ understanding of pivotal First Amendment issues and then puts that knowledge to practice by litigating active free speech matters. Clinic cases have included:

  • Drafting an amicus brief on behalf of dozens of members of Congress urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule for a Colorado website designer who refused to create a custom website for a same-sex wedding because it was counter to the designer’s religious beliefs (in the 303 Creative case; see the amicus brief here)
  • Protecting the free-speech rights of students on campus by challenging university rules requiring permission to speak on campus; challenging university harassment policies (which restrict unpopular speech); and challenging bias response teams (which chill student expression)
  • Successfully defending an individual against a charge of obstruction of justice for criticizing a police officer
  • Defending the right of a candidate for the Connecticut General Assembly to send a mailer criticizing the Governor
  • Petitioning a county government in Virginia to reduce onerous restrictions on demonstrations on public property, leading to significant changes to the county’s regulation

The Clinic regularly hosts guest speakers, including legal practitioners, scholars, policy analysts, government attorneys, and parties to landmark First Amendment litigation. Our guest speakers have included the following:

  • Nadine Strossen, former President of the ACLU, spoke about hate speech and her recent book HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship
  • Mary Beth Tinker, one of the lead plaintiffs in the Supreme Court’s landmark freedom of speech ruling Tinker v. Des Moines, gave her personal perspective about that case and K-12 student expression
  • Robert Corn-Revere, a prominent First Amendment attorney, spoke about his new book: The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder
  • Trace Mitchell, Litigation Counsel for the Institute for Justice and former Free Speech Clinic participant, spoke about content moderation on the internet and Section 230
  • Michael McConnell, Professor and Director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and member of Facebook’s Oversight Board, spoke about the Oversight Board
  • Emerson Sykes, Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, discussed freedom of speech and protests
  • Will Creeley, Director of Legal Policy at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), addressed time, place, and manner restrictions and speech on college campuses

As the only Free Speech Clinic in the Washington, D.C., area, the Clinic provides an essential service to the surrounding community while training future free speech advocates and litigators. Thus, the impact of the Clinic is both immediate and far-reaching.