I am a proud student at the Antonin Scalia Law School largely due to the school’s dedication to the marketplace of ideas. In fact, the school highlights its commitment to such by displaying a quote by Frederick Douglas that says, “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” From the moment I entered the law school in 2018, these powerful words guided me on the path of learning how the law protects First Amendment rights.
This journey led me to the Free Speech Clinic, which teaches First Amendment law in an immersive way. The clinic mixed weekly guest speakers who provide their unique perspectives with instructors who facilitate practical application of those weekly lessons. Each week, a guest speaker wrestled with a different First Amendment topic, with issues ranging from content discrimination; time, place, and manner restrictions; speech on college campuses; freedom of association and many others.
Speakers included top practitioners of First Amendment law at the appellate level. Robert Corn-Revere spoke about cases before the high courts, including United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, a high-profile case which struck down portions of the Communications Decency Act. Others faced First Amendment questions at the local level. Craig Brown discussed his experience as the city attorney for Charlottesville when the riots occurred in 2018. Specifically, he explained the on the ground planning that goes into speech regulation in public areas. Speakers also included parties to Free Speech cases. Mary Beth Tinker, of the famed Tinker v. Des Moines school speech decision, explained not only her involvement during the case but also how it influenced the rest of her life. Each speaker’s perspective humanized and gave real life meaning to the vital interests protected by the First Amendment.
Pairing the speakers’ lessons with the practical and academic perspectives of Professors Connolly and Koob’s provided for a uniquely informative experience. This blend of academic rigor and real-world inspiration created a living laboratory in which students gain legal experience with the First Amendment. The Free Speech Clinic – through instruction, example, and application – is precisely what drew me to the Antonin Scalia Law School. I am eager to practice First Amendment law as an attorney, but even if I do not, as a patriot I will always appreciate and defend free speech. Without it, all Americans lose their right to participate in the marketplace of ideas, the sharing and expression of their beliefs.