Joseph Russomanno (ed.)(2005)
Defending the First: Commentary on First Amendment Issues and Cases. (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates) 212 + xvi pp. ISBN 0-8058-4925-4. $79.95. Table of cases and index.
Following an introduction by Nadine Strossen (NYU professor of law and president of the American Civil Liberties Union) that ably points out the current relevance of Defending the First's content, the book is divided into nine independent chapters that cover cases, events and analysis from the latter half of the 20th century to the near future. Between them, they give a richly woven series of views of the First Amendment, its detractors and its defenders, and the arguments they used. Some were written by participants, and each author has thought deeply about his or her subject. The first five chapters specifically deal with the Miami Herald v. Tornillo case and a new First Amendment right of access to the media (by Jerome A. Barron); Cohen v. Cowles Media, the obligation of the media to keep their word when offering confidentiality (by Elliot C. Rothenberg); Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, "the casualty of war" of student rights to symbolically protest the Vietnam war (Dan Johnston); Burstyn v. Wilson, the rights of motion pictures to portray religious figures (by Marjorie Heins); R.A.V. v. St. Paul and Virginia v. Black, suppressing hateful ideas by force of law (by Edward J. Cleary). These are followed by chapters on the role of the Supreme Court itself in oral argument (by Rodney A. Smolla); what happens when one takes a case to the Supreme Court (by Bruce S. Rogow, who has done so 11 times); the Supreme Court takes on the challenge of Reno v. ACLU, dealing with the new communications medium of the Internet (by Paul M. Smith); and a concluding chapter (by John B. Morris, Jr.) on the past, present, and future of Internet censorship and free speech advocacy. If one is looking for a tightly written set of essays that cover recent developments in First Amendment issues, this book will certainly provide food for thought.
The above article was published in Media Ethics, Spring 2006 (17:2),pp.36-37.