“The Free Speech Clinic was, without a doubt, my favorite thing about law school. The subject matter is fascinating, the professors are knowledgeable and engaging, and the format is fast paced without being overwhelming. Having the opportunity to work on real cases–talking with clients, investigating issues, and conducting research–gave me a taste of what it will actually be like to practice law. I highly recommend the Free Speech Clinic to any student who has even a passing interest in the First Amendment. It is a fascinating and nuanced area of law that is immensely important to our way of life.”
“George Mason’s Free Speech Clinic was, without a doubt, the best elective course I took while in law school. The opportunity to gain real-world practice experience while researching essential legal questions surrounding constitutionally protected free speech was truly an amazing experience. Moreover, the open-discussion format of the classroom and the regularly scheduled guest speakers made this class very engaging and enjoyable. In sum, this course left me feeling much more prepared for professional practice and encouraged me to pursue a career working on issues related to free speech and the First Amendment.”
-Student feedback from prior Free Speech Law Clinics
In Fall of 2018, the Liberty & Law Center launched a Free Speech Clinic to provide Scalia Law students with real, hands-on experience representing clients against infringements upon their freedom of speech. Clinic students work on cases at the trial and appellate court levels in both federal and state courts. The Clinic provides students with a wide range of experiences including interviewing clients, conducting legal research, and drafting legal memoranda. The focus of Clinic cases also varies tremendously and (to name but a few) have included:
- Charges of obstruction of justice for pure speech,
- A local government’s restrictions on peaceful demonstrations on public property,
- A state’s restrictions on the content of personalized automobile license plates,
- The legal liability for disregarding a local law on the ground that the law was unconstitutional under the First Amendment,
- Different restrictions on speech in a public university setting, including free speech zones and cancelling a presentation by an outside speaker,
- What constitutes a “state actor” for First Amendment purposes.
“By providing law students with experience in cases such as this, the Free Speech Clinic is helping to train the next generation of First Amendment litigators,” said JoAnn Koob, director of the Liberty & Law Center.
But more than engagement in current free speech battles, an active curriculum component is also training future attorneys to be lifelong advocates for the liberties protected by the First Amendment. The impact of the Clinic is thus both immediate and far-reaching. Clinic students meet weekly with guest speakers on a wide array of contemporary free speech issues. These visitors include scholars, experts, practitioners, and participants in free speech cases. Click here to see a list of recent Clinic speakers.
The Free Speech Clinic is directed by Michael Connolly from the law firm of Consovoy McCarthy Park, PLLC. Josh Wheeler, an attorney with over 25 years experience as a First Amendment advocate, serves as a senior fellow with the program.
For more information, click here.
Kevin M. Goldberg is a member at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C. He focuses on First Amendment, Freedom of Information Act, and intellectual property issues, particularly copyright and trademark matters encountered by content creators and users, with a particular eye toward threats affecting publication on the Internet and social media. Kevin serves as both counselor to and advocate for several major press organizations including, among others, the American Society of News Editors and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He has had a hand in the drafting and passage of several major bills revising the federal Freedom of Information Act, similar state acts, state laws affecting defamation, copyright, and personal privacy. He will join the Clinic for a lecture and discussion April 29th, 2019.