What We Fight For

Free Speech

One of the hallmarks of a free society is the ability to speak your mind and hear ideas and information from others.

Freedom of speech is necessary to sustain free thought and free action. Both our intellectual and economic lives depend on the exchange of ideas and information. The courts have rightly given strong protections to some kinds of speech. At PLF, we work to defend your speech from attempts at censorship and extend that protection to other important, but neglected, kinds of speech. Our practice includes:

Our Free Speech Practice includes:

Defending Your Speech from Government Censorship Based on its Content

Government should not be able to regulate the content of your speech when it doesn’t like what you say.

Andy Cilek went to his polling place in Minnesota wearing a t-shirt expressing some political views: a “Don’t Tread on Me” logo and a small tea party logo. An election official prevented him from voting and recorded his name for possible fines and prosecution. Andy fought back with PLF—and won! The Supreme Court protected Andy’s right to free speech when it ruled that Minnesota’s regulation of polling place clothing was a clear violation of the First Amendment.

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Expanding Legal Protection for Your Professional and Commercial Speech

Current law says that speech for commercial purposes is less worthy of protection than political speech. Try telling that to people whose livelihoods depend on commercial speech: teachers, doctors, business owners, and any other profession who must communicate with others. At PLF, we reject the idea that some speech is less worthy of protection and work for a consistent application of the First Amendment.

The State of Virginia wouldn’t allow Chef Geoff to advertise his restaurant’s happy hours, even though offering happy hour deals was perfectly legal. Geoff’s lawsuit impelled the state to overturn its absurd ban on truthful commercial speech.

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Preserving Your Right Not to Speak or Be Spoken For

Just as important as the right to speak is the right NOT to speak. Yet there are many circumstances in which governments compel people to speak or fund messages they do not support: forcing disclosures of associations with political groups, forcing disclosures of commercial information, and forcing workers to pay for political lobbying.

Eddie Keller and Raymond Brosterhous were practicing attorneys in California. The state’s bar association, which all lawyers must join, used their membership dues to lobby the government on issues with which they disagreed. Eddie and Raymond argued that this was a violation of their First Amendment rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

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