A Florida court said 2 Live Crew’s rap lyrics were obscene, but a circuit
court reversed the decision, saying the music was protected by the First
Though revered by history, Abraham Lincoln has been criticized for his
restrictions on civil liberties during the Civil War, including First
Amendment freedoms. People expressing pro-Confederate sentiments were
arrested, and the Chicago Times newspaper was shuttered for criticizing
Amy Coney Barrett was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2020
to fill a vacancy after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. Still new to the
court, it will take more cases to fully examine her record on First
Anne Hutchinson was a religious leader in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the mother of 15 children. She held Bible studies in her home, which were attended by both men and women, and she challenged the authority of the Puritan clergy. Hutchinson was eventually banished from the colony and moved to Rhode Island.
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, confirmed in 2018, authored many
First Amendment decisions while on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Circuit. Among the issues in his opinions are protest rights, defamation,
campaign finance and freedom of speech and press.
Damon Keith was a long-serving judge on the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals and an important figure in protecting civil rights. He authored
many First Amendment decisions, including involving symbolic speech and the
rights of a religious speaker.
Frederick Douglass, a former slave who became one of America’s greatest
orators, believed that the First Amendment rights to free speech and
assembly were essential in abolishing slavery in the United States.
Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II was an architect of First
Amendment jurisprudence in obscenity law, freedom of association,
expressive conduct, and offensive speech.
John Seigenthaler was the longtime editor of The Tennessean in Nashville,
known for championing civil rights. He founded the First Amendment Center
at Vanderbilt University in 1991 and became a national leader in promoting
First Amendment values.
Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, an international non-profit
organization that publishes leaks from across the globe. In the First
Amendment world, questions abound as to whether Assange is a journalist or
simply the recipient of document dumps.
Ketanji Brown Jackson was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Joe Biden on June 30, 2022. She replaced Justice Stephen Breyer who had retired. Biden would likely have appointed her earlier had not Republicans rushed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett in the waning days of the Trump Administration, even though they
Robert O’Neil (1934-2018) was an authority on First Amendment issues,
writing several books and amicus curiae briefs on First Amendment cases
that reached the Supreme Court. He also was the founding director of the
Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.