Legal Studies: The First Amendment and Freedom of Speech

This course will cover some basic First Amendment free speech law. By closely reading and decoding caselaw from the Supreme Court of the United States, you will discover how to reason as lawyers do about freedom of expression in the U.S.

Following some review and general background on the Bill of Rights, we will explore a variety of cases, including cases such as: West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943) (compulsory flag saluting); Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) (speech that incites violence); Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971) (indecent speech); Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989) (flag burning); and Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007) (student speech). We will conclude with focus on the free-speech claims in the very recent Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U.S. ___ (2018) (wedding cakes as speech).

Through extensive discussion, debates, and study of fact patterns, we will concretize and challenge the law with reference to current controversies such as free speech on campuses, free speech online, symbolic speech, and free speech rights for young people.

While this class is valuable for those who contemplate law school, everybody benefits from a better understanding of where speech rights come from in the United States, and how they work.

Students should be prepared to work collaboratively in an inclusive and supportive environment and empathize with diverse viewpoints.

Session Two
Course is Full
at the time of application
on the first day of session
Scheduled Class Time*

08:00 AM - 11:00 AM (PDT)

*The course will meet for two hours daily (Monday–Friday) for a live class during this window of time. The exact time will be set closer to the program start. In addition to the live meeting times, students will engage in out-of-class learning assignments such as assigned readings, group work, pre-recorded online lectures, and more.