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FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUES

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment questions can arise when government bodies, including the judicial branch, take action to restrain or repress speech or activities that could be construed as protected speech. There are also situations when questions pertaining to petitioning rights come into play in defamation cases. The freedom of the press contained in the First Amendment is the backdrop for a variety of issues that arise in Communication and Media Law.

Originally, the First Amendment only applied to laws passed by the federal congress. That changed in 1925 when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925) that it applied to laws and regulations issued by government at any level, including State and local. Thus in modern times we are used to enjoying First Amendment rights with regard to all of government’s actions. However, the scope and application of the First Amendment deserves detailed analysis that could be decisive.  The tort of defamation and certain privacy rights are affected by the First Amendment and certain laws associated with it.  In those instances, it may be necessary to seek legal help

The First Amendment is one of the most unique and important aspects of American jurisprudence.  It is one of the constitutional principles that separate the United States from the other nations of the world.  Despite this long-standing history, civics today do not include teaching the basics, including what First Amendment rights are, and violations occur.

Generally there are three basic elements to a First Amendment claim.  First, a prospective plaintiff must be conducting protected activity/speech.  Second, an adverse action was taken against the plaintiff that would deter a person of ordinary firmness from continuing in the conduct and/or speech.  Lastly, there must be a connection between the adverse action and the plaintiff’s protected acts and/or speech.

If you believe that the government has taken an adverse action against you based on the exercise of your first amendment rights or that the first amendment is implicated to an extent to give rise to a claim, give the Law Offices of George E. Bourguignon, Jr a call.