In a recent article, FIU Law Professor Thomas Baker is quoted on why the Supreme Court’s fall session begins without any direct First Amendment cases. He states the dearth of First Amendment cases could mean that the justices “are turning in other directions after having decided some important speech and religion cases the last couple of years. The idea is that they decide some big cases, like the ministerial-exemption case and then back away to allow the lower courts to work out the details.”
With over three decades of law teaching experience, Professor Baker is a nationally-recognized constitutionalist who has received numerous awards for his teaching, including the first-ever Pioneer Award for his commitment and dedication to students from the FIU Student Bar Association in 2004. Professor Baker publishes commentaries and is frequently quoted in the national media as an expert in constitutional law and the federal courts.
High court spotlight misses First Amendment
By Tony Mauro
The Supreme Court’s fall session begins without any direct First Amendment cases on the argument docket, signaling a possible respite from free-speech and religion cases for the near-to-middle future.
Recent terms of the court have featured numerous free-speech cases involving controversial expression, campaign expenditures and the rights of public employees, as well as occasional forays into both the establishment and free- exercise religion clauses. But not so far this term.
It would be hard to say the absence of First Amendment cases is intentional on the part of the court since, as justices often say, its docket is at the mercy of the petitions that come in the door, and whether those specific cases merit review. And the court’s argument calendar for this term is far from full, so new First Amendment cases could still be added.
But still, some First Amendment scholars say the hiatus may reflect the justices’ general sense that the court’s doctrines on both speech and religion clauses are fairly stable and settled, without major divisions that require repair.
The court has not ruled on a press-freedom case in more than a decade, for example. Media organizations are generally content to leave it that way, with pro-press precedents such as New York Times v. Sullivan firmly in place. And even the fight over campaign finance, which has been the subject of numerous Supreme Court First Amendment battles in recent years, may have run its course for now. In a Montana case decided in June, the court passed up a chance to revisit its controversial Citizens United ruling loosening restrictions on campaign expenditures by corporations.