Contributions

What stan­dard should be applied to lim­it­ed pur­pose pub­lic fig­ures – indi­vid­u­als that are pub­lic fig­ures only due to their involve­ment in a par­tic­u­lar pub­lic con­tro­ver­sy – who bring defama­tion claims, when the alleged defam­a­to­ry remarks are unre­lat­ed to the plaintiff’s pur­pose for being a pub­lic fig­ure? David Clements (’17) exam­ines this ques­tion, pre­sent­ed at the Spring 2016 Mar­den Moot Court Com­pe­ti­tion, held at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law. The “ger­mane­ness test” employed by sev­er­al Cir­cuit Courts of Appeal deter­mines the extent of First Amend­ment pro­tec­tions a defen­dant in a defama­tion suit receives: a chal­lenged state­ment ger­mane to the con­tro­ver­sy for which a defama­tion claimant is a pub­lic fig­ure receive more pro­tec­tion than a state­ment unre­lat­ed to that con­tro­ver­sy. This Con­tri­bu­tion urges the Supreme Court to revis­it this ger­mane­ness test, as applied to lim­it­ed pur­pose pub­lic fig­ures, for three rea­sons: first, allow­ing lim­it­ed pur­pose pub­lic fig­ures to recov­er dam­ages for neg­li­gent defama­tion would cause a chill­ing effect on the press; sec­ond, engag­ing in a inten­sive inves­ti­ga­tion into whether cer­tain com­ments are “ger­mane” to a par­tic­u­lar plaintiff’s pur­pose as a pub­lic con­sti­tutes a pre­sump­tive­ly uncon­sti­tu­tion­al con­tent-based analy­sis of speech; third, the dis­tinc­tion between lim­it­ed pur­pose and gen­er­al pur­pose pub­lic fig­ures is no longer applic­a­ble due to tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment and the height­ened access to self-help chan­nels that even lim­it­ed pur­pose pub­lic fig­ures now possess.

Contributions

Does a school dis­trict vio­late the First Amend­ment when they ban stick­ers read­ing “Screw Hate, Don’t Dis­crim­i­nate,” and if so, how? Alec Web­ley (’16) exam­ines this ques­tion, pre­sent­ed at the 2015 Seigen­thaler First Amend­ment Moot Court Com­pe­ti­tion at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty. Supreme Court doc­trine rec­og­nizes that a school or edu­ca­tor may sup­press stu­dent speech – speech that, in oth­er con­texts, would receive First Amend­ment pro­tec­tions – that is “lewd,” and there­fore incon­sis­tent with a school’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion. This Con­tri­bu­tion cri­tiques this lewd­ness test as imper­mis­si­bly vague, con­tent-based, and over­broad, and pro­pos­es an alter­na­tive method through which schools could pro­duc­tive­ly address and sanc­tion “lewd” speech.