Second year Catholic University law school students David Levie, Kara Tappan, and Zack Navit (in order, above) are the first CUA Law student authors to publish a paper on the Newseum’s First Amendment Center website. The website, www.firstamendmentcenter.org, is one of the nation’s most authoritative sources of news, information and commentary on First Amendment issues.
The students’ special report, “Constitutionality of state funeral-picketing laws since Snyder v. Phelps
” examines the constitutionality of funeral picketing statutes nationwide nearly three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Snyder v. Phelps
. The court’s decision overturned a damage award against members of the Westboro Baptist Church who picketed during the funeral of fallen U.S serviceman Matthew Snyder.
Among the report’s findings:
- Both the Sixth and Eighth Circuits have now concluded that funeral picketing statutes that limit the restrictions on a person’s speech to a specific area, time, and near funeral or burial events within “fixed buffer zones” constitutional, but that so-called “floating buffer zones,” with indefinite area and time restrictions are unconstitutional.
- The emergence of a buffer-zone case involving abortion clinics on the 2013-14 docket of the Supreme Court is evidence of the ever-present necessity of balancing freedom of speech against reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.
- In light of current precedent, states and municipalities seeking to fashion constitutional funeral picketing statutes would do well to make the statutes as narrow as possible with limited space and time restrictions that avoid the kind of floating buffer zones associated with funeral processions.
This report is first in an ongoing series on the status of the law with regard to First Amendment issues, produced by a unique partnership between the Newseum Institute and the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. The partnership will utilize the research and writing skills of second and third-year law students, under the direction of a faculty advisor. Reports on the projects will be available on the web site of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, one of the nation’s leading nonpartisan education and information resources about those core five freedoms.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to work with the Newseum Institute to explore First Amendment issues and provide reports to the public,” said CUA Law Dean Daniel Attridge. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to join the Newseum Institute in developing information and analysis about important First Amendment topics.”
“We are very excited about this project with the Columbus School of Law, which helps fulfill our mission of educating the public about the value and importance of the First Amendment to our country and our way of life,” said James Duff, President and CEO of the Newseum and Newseum Institute.
Directing the ongoing program: Prof. Sarah Duggin, director, Law and Public Policy Program and Professor of Law at the Columbus School of Law; and Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, and senior vice president of the Institute’s First Amendment Center.
The student authors—Levie, Navit and Tappan— are members of the Columbus School of Law’s class of 2015, members of the Catholic University Law Review staff, and part of the inaugural team of CUA Law students in the school’s Newseum Institute Project.
- David Levie is active in the law school’s Street Law program. Currently, he is an intern for the Hon. R. B. Walton on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Levie believes the five First Amendment freedoms are central to the preservation of a free society and our democratic system.
- Zachary Navit is particularly interested in studying the First Amendment with a view toward helping others understand and protect the freedoms the First Amendment guarantees. He recently participated in an international human rights program in Rome, Italy.
- Kara Tappan is active in the law school community and serves as a teaching assistant For Prof. Megan La Belle’s Civil Procedure class. She currently interns with the Hon. Sally D. Adkins on the Maryland Court of Appeals. Tappan has a strong interest in the First Amendment, particularly freedom of speech and press.
The Newseum’s First Amendment Center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, and the rights to assemble and to petition the government.