Former Dean of Stanford Law School and Constitutional Law “Superstar” Kathleen Sullivan presented a lecture that was called both “riveting” and “thought provoking” as this year’s Judge Justin L. Quackenbush series speaker. Sullivan discussed the traditions behind free speech and the first amendment, and the Supreme Court’s handling of those traditions in recent transformative decisions. The lecture was held March 27, 2013.
Watch Sullivan’s Quackenbush Lecture
A Richly Textured Analysis
“Dean Sullivan’s insight into the Supreme Court’s recent first amendment jurisprudence was impressive for its richly textured and carefully crafted analysis.” explained Jason Gillmer, Gonzaga’s John J. Hemmingson Chair in Civil Liberties. “Debunking the myth that law can be explained by the current politics of the day, Dean Sullivan showed how the Court’s decision-making is best understood by looking to the bedrock principles of equality and liberty. The weight individual justices give to these matters, she argues, goes a long way in explaining their views on whether a particular law violates our free speech rights… Her thesis will surely shape the debate in years to come.”
Taking a Bold Stand on the First Amendment
At the beginning of Sullivan’s presentation, she pointed out that the Roberts court is often called an “incrementalist” Court. “However, the Court has been very bold in decisions concerning free speech” explained Sullivan, citing the cases of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The Two Traditions of Free Speech
In explanation of this bold trend in the court, Sullivan then outlined the two traditions of free speech protections: free speech as equality, and free speech as liberty. The tradition of free speech as equality, she argued, fits easily into equal protection jurisprudence as an “affirmative action for free speech.” On the other hand, the tradition of free speech as liberty holds that Congress cannot limit speech, no matter its source. While these two traditions sometimes overlap, they can also be at odds with one another.
About the Quackenbush Lecture Series
For the last four years, the Gonzaga School of Law Quackenbush lecture series, supported by the Federal Judges of the Eastern District of Washington, has featured a variety of talented speakers, intended to honor the achievements of Judge Justin L. Quackenbush. This year, Judge Quackenbush took the opportunity to honor Judge Cynthia Imbrogno, a 1979 Gonzaga Law graduate and federal magistrate who was appointed in 1991 and is retiring this year.