The two most anticipated First Amendment cases of the Term, Masterpiece Cakeshop and Janus, are receiving the worst kind of attention. The focus of these cases, because of their potentially substantial impact, has been on their politically divisive natures. However, the efficacy of the First Amendment and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court depend on our faith in the Court’s ability to be principled, instead of purely results-driven. With so many people watching, the Court has the opportunity to both get it right and de-politicize these two decisions.
Defusing Masterpiece Cakeshop
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Yesterday, we watched in horror the coverage of yet another mass shooting at a school, where students experienced the most casualties. One of the most haunting and poignant interviews was that of a Santa Fe High School student who said she was not surprised by the fact that a mass shooting had occurred in Santa Fe. She had a feeling that the violence would eventually reach her school.
This is not a way children should feel. I am an adult, more emotionally and psychologically equipped to deal with fear, and I experience concerns over school shootings. I have wondered what I would do if a shooter entered my classroom. I have pondered how far I would go to protect my students. I have considered (although I have not let it affect my behavior) whether a student upset about a grade might retaliate violently.
My heart goes out to children afraid of violence in schools. I had the privilege of feeling relatively safe from physical violence when I was a student, and school has always been one of my favorite places. There are sensible solutions to this national tragedy, and these very natural, human fears, that require us to keep a clear head. Here are some thoughts on ways to approach these debates to get to those solutions.
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Respond fully in essay form to the question below.
Susan Blade is a historian at a local public university. She studies Egyptian history, and cares only about ancient Egypt, leaving her house only to go to work. The rest of her time is spent pouring over books. One day, Susan’s home is broken into, and a robber attempts to steal her things by pointing a gun at her. Instead, she disarms the robber, ties him to a chair, and calls the police.
The next day, the local newspaper, The Dayton Doodle, runs a story about the attempted robbery. The story describes Susan as being a kooky recluse, and “not well liked by anyone except ancient, mummified Egyptians.” The newspaper believed this statement to be true, but, in fact, many people at the university like Susan. The story also describes embarrassing items that were strewn about the floor during the scuffle between Susan and the alleged robber, including the color of her undergarments, written up in a police report.
Susan brings a defamation lawsuit, based on the statement that she is unlikeable, and a privacy tort claim, based on the description of her undergarments. Discuss how she will fare on these two claims, noting both the state law elements she must prove and the First Amendment defenses The Dayton Doodle will raise. Do not discuss damages, only liability. Also, spend significant time only on contested/close legal issues- some elements/issues can be dealt with in one quick sentence, some need a few sentences of analysis, and others need more development.
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