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Events calendar

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Sept. 15
"Cinematic Liberty & the First Amendment: The Story of the Burstyn Case (1952)
6 - 7:30 p.m.

Book: The Miracle Case: Film Censorship and the Supreme Court (2008)

It was only a 40-minute foreign film, but it sparked a legal confrontation that left its mark on American law and culture. Roberto Rossellini’s "Il Miracolo" ("The Miracle") was deceptively simple: A demented peasant woman is seduced by a stranger she believes to be Saint Joseph, is socially ostracized for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, but is finally redeemed through motherhood. Although initially approved by state censors for screening in New York, the film was later attacked as sacrilegious by the Catholic establishment (Cardinal Spellman railed against it), which convinced state officials to revoke distributor Joseph Burstyn’s license. In response, Burstyn fought back through the courts and won in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court — Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson (1952). That decision became the single most important ruling in the jurisprudence surrounding motion-picture expression.

Laura Wittern-Keller and Raymond J. Haberski Jr.

Judge Thomas Ambro, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Robert Corn-Revere, First Amendment lawyer, Davis Wright Tremaine
Murray Horwitz, director, American Film Institute, Silver Theatre

RSVP here.

Sept. 26
Exhibit: "Biblioclasm: The Assault on Ideas from Homer to Harry Potter"
University of Southern California
Doheny Memorial Library, 1st Floor Treasure Room
5:30 p.m. reception

Sponsored by the USC Libraries. Please RSVP by Sept. 22 at (event code 0926) or (213) 740-1744. Light refreshments will be served, and parking will be reserved at Gate 4, off Jefferson Blvd. For maps and directions to campus, visit

Oct. 14
"Liberty in Terrorist Times"
6 – 7:30 p.m.

Book: The Constitution and 9/11: Recurring Threats to America’s Freedoms (2008

How has 9/11 affected our constitutional culture and its values? How has it affected our civil liberties, including our First Amendment freedoms? In such crises, how effective has our system of checks and balances been? How much information can be kept secret before the idea of “open government” vanishes? Since 9/11, how are the government’s needs for surveillance to be balanced against the protection of our rights? What constitutional limits does the Constitution impose on the powers of a wartime executive branch? And what does our history tell us about such questions?

Louis Fisher, Congressional Research Service

Meredith Fuchs, general counsel, National Security Archive

Judge James E. Baker, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

RSVP here.

Oct. 21
"Press Liberty: Then & Now"
6 – 7:30 p.m.

Book: Freedom of the Press: The First Amendment: Its Constitutional History and the Contemporary Debate (2008)

The press in the United States is freer than in any other country in the world, and virtually any in history. American courts give critics of society and government extraordinary freedom to disseminate views that are unpopular, subversive, even hateful. How did freedom of the press evolve over the centuries? What values does American press freedom claim to serve today? What challenges will this right face in the 21st century? These are some of the important questions addressed in Garrett Epps’ new book, which also offers brief selections from other cultures on freedom of the press. Finally, Epps likewise examines the unprecedented challenges to a free press from a global Internet culture.

Garrett Epps, University of Baltimore, School of Law

Lucy Dalglish, executive director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Mark Tapscott, editorial page editor, The Examiner
(others TBA)

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Oct. 22
"Justice William O. Douglas & the First Amendment: A Dialogue"
6 – 7:30 p.m.

How did Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980) come to his absolutist views on the First Amendment during his long tenure (1939-1975) on the Supreme Court? Just how absolute were his views, especially in comparison to his colleagues on the Warren Court — justices such as Hugo Black and William Brennan? What restrictions, if any, would he allow on any of the five freedoms in the First Amendment? These and other questions will be explored with David J. Danelski, a noted constitutional scholar who has been working on a major biography of Douglas for decades. He is the co-author of a leading casebook, Constitutional Law: Civil Liberty & Individual Rights (6th ed., 2007), and is the author of the much-acclaimed biography, A Supreme Court Justice is Appointed (Random House, 1964).

David J. Danelski, author of a forthcoming biography of William O. Douglas
Ronald Collins, scholar, First Amendment Center

RSVP here.

Oct. 29
“Can Our Book Culture Survive? — A Dialogue”
6 - 7:30 p.m.

Shelby Coffey, senior fellow, Freedom Forum

Marie Arana, book editor, Washington Post Book World
Robert Weil, executive editor, W.W. Norton & Co.

RSVP here.

Nov. 3
Journalism & Justice: “The Career of Linda Greenhouse: A Dialogue”
6 - 7:30 p.m.

Walter Dellinger, partner, O’Melveny & Myers

Ronald Collins, scholar, First Amendment Center

Linda Greenhouse, Knight distinguished journalist-in-residence and Joseph M. Goldstein senior fellow, Yale Law School
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. Supreme Court, retired

RSVP here.

Nov. 12
”The Wondrous World of the First Amendment: An Encyclopedic Look”
6 - 7:30 p.m.

Book:Encyclopedia of the First Amendment (2008), editors John Vile,David L. Hudson Jr., and David Schultz.

Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director, First Amendment Center

Judge Michael McConnell, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Robert M. O’Neil, director, Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression

RSVP here.

Nov. 6
Lecture: "Books on Fire," by Lucien X. Polastron.
University of Southern California
University Park Campus
Doheny Memorial Library
Intellectual Commons
5 p.m.

Sponsored by the USC Libraries. Lecture in conjunction with the exhibition "Biblioclasm." Lucien X. Polastron discusses the persistent threats to books and knowledge, including the recent destruction of libraries in Bosnia and Iraq. Event URL: Contact:, 213/740-2070.

Topics of Our Times: First Amendment Center Events
Knight Conference Center at the Newseum, 8th Floor (6th Street entrance, Rooms 802-806)
The First Amendment Center, in conjunction with the Newseum, hosts a series of First Amendment-related evening events, including book events. Many of the most timely and controversial topics of our times are discussed by some of the leading authorities in the nation. New and forthcoming books will also be profiled.

Join us for rich conversation conducted at a unique forum.

RSVP here.


Sept. 4
"Free-Press vs. Fair Trial: The Stories Behind a Landmark Case"
6 - 7:30 p.m.

Book: Rights in Balance: Free Press, Fair Trial, & Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart (2008)

Rights in the Balance is the story of the complex legal battles set in motion one tragic night on the western Nebraska plains. In juxtaposition to the criminal prosecution of Erwin Simants, Mark Scherer traces the Nebraska Press Association’s battle to overturn a gag order imposed on the news media by state court judges. Prohibited from publishing certain details about the crimes and the Simants prosecution, the association set its own arduous legal course that would lead ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court and the landmark ruling in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart. The decision, one of the most closely followed in American constitutional history, remains one of the high court’s most significant statements and controlling precedents on the troublesome and recurring conflict between the rights of free press and fair trial. Balancing the nuances of myriad legal considerations against the very human dimensions of both the constitutional litigations and the Simants prosecution, Scherer offers up a narrative accessible not only to communications and legal specialists and scholars but also the interested general public.

Mark R. Scherer, professor of history, University of Nebraska, Omaha

Ronald Collins, scholar, First Amendment Center

Floyd Abrams, First Amendment lawyer, Cahill Gordon & Reindel

RSVP here.

Sept. 9
“Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty”
6 - 7:30 p.m.

Book: Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts, by Anthony R. Picarello, general counsel, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Douglas Laycock, Alice McKean Young Regents Chair emeritus professor of law, University of Michigan

What kind of religious freedom conflicts are likely to emerge if society embraces same-sex marriage? A redefinition of marriage would affect a host of laws involving marital status and legal rights. These laws, in turn, regulate a host of religious institutions. When, if ever, should claims of religious liberty prevail over claims of sexual liberty?

Kevin “Seamus” Hasson, founder & chairman, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Chai Feldblum, professor of law, Georgetown University
Douglas Laycock, Alice McKean Young Regents Chair emeritus professor of law, University of Michigan
Jonathan Turley, professor of law, George Washington Law Center
Robin Wilson, professor of law, Washington & Lee University

RSVP here.

Aug. 15 – Dec. 31

"Banned and recovered: Artists respond to censorship"
An exhibition at two venues

More than 60 artists interpret banned or challenged books in their chosen medium in response to the suppression of literary art.

Exhibit: San Francisco Center for the Book, Aug. 15-Nov. 26, 2008
300 De Haro St.
San Francisco, CA 94131
Gallery hours Mon.-Fri., 10-5; Sat. 12-4
Public reception: Fri., Aug.15, 6-8 p.m.

Exhibit: African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Sep. 5-Dec. 31
659 14th St.
Oakland, CA 94612
Gallery hours Tues.-Sat., 12-5:30
Public reception: Fri., Sep. 5, 6-8 p.m.

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Last system update: Monday, September 22, 2008 | 16:48:53
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