A growing chorus of judges, lawyers, and journalists have called attention to a “Lochnerian” turn in First Amendment doctrine, as the federal courts have increasingly invalidated or narrowed regulations of socio-economic power in the name of free speech or the free exercise of religion. While many legal scholars have offered criticisms of First Amendment Lochnerism—the use of the First Amendment to entrench social and economic hierarchy—there have been few efforts to describe or defend the alternative: a First Amendment that would advance, rather than obstruct or remain indifferent to, the pursuit of social and economic equality. There has likewise been very little commentary connecting First Amendment Lochnerism to broader changes in the institutional landscape of free expression, including the proliferation of private platforms that facilitate and filter public debate.
In response, the Columbia Law Review is convening a day of debate, discussion, and reflection by leading legal scholars. In asking where the First Amendment goes from here, this symposium aims to break down barriers between different scholarly subfields—connecting high-level questions about the First Amendment’s meaning and function with emerging problems in areas such as Internet law, media law, labor law, antidiscrimination law, campaign finance law, and commercial speech. More fundamentally, it aims to move First Amendment theory and practice away from critiques of past judicial rulings and toward the more affirmative project of redesigning the law of free expression for a present and future of mounting economic inequality and authoritarian challenges to democratic norms. The conversation will center around seven original works of scholarship, to appear in the November 2018 issue of the Columbia Law Review, that take up this challenge, whether enthusiastically or critically.
Friday, March 23, 2018, 8:30 am–5:15 pm, reception to follow
Jerome Greene Hall Room 101
435 West 116th Street, New York, New York 10027