What does the First Amendment Clinic do?

The Clinic provides law students with the opportunity to gain real-world practice experience representing clients on First Amendment issues, preparing students to take a leadership role in protecting free expression and freedom of the press once they leave law school.

Under the supervision of the Clinic director, students provide direct client representation and advocacy, including pre-complaint consultation/investigation and representation during litigation, on issues of free speech and expression, press rights and newsgathering, and the rights to assemble and to petition the government for grievances.  The Clinic provides these services at no charge to clients in order to facilitate legal representation of individuals or organizations who may not otherwise have access to counsel with First Amendment expertise.

Clinic students also provide educational support to journalists, students, government employees, and public citizens around issues of free expression and newsgathering, including answering questions, providing presentations, and contributing to the public debate.

Does the Clinic’s work cover all aspects of the First Amendment?

The Clinic focuses on the First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

What kinds of cases fit within the Clinic’s mission?

Examples of First Amendment matters that may fit within the scope of the Clinic’s mission include, without limitation:

  • Government retaliation against a government employee because of the employee’s private speech on a matter of public concern.
  • A public school or district punishing a student for non-disruptive speech or expression on a matter of public concern.
  • Government imposition of time, place, and manner restrictions on speech that discriminate based on speaker content or viewpoint, or that are overly broad to achieve the government’s purpose.
  • Government censorship of speech before the speech occurs (this is called “prior restraint”).
  • Government retaliation against a public citizen based on their speech (e.g., a government official who blocks a citizen on social media because the citizen criticized the official; denial of a parade, protest, or licensing permit based on the content or viewpoint of the intended speech or expression).
  • Defense of individuals facing defamation or libel action because of their news reporting or other public speech on a matter of public concern.
  • Defense of a journalist’s right to protect their news sources.
  • Arrest of a citizen for exercising their right to verbally criticize the police or for exercising their right to observe and record public police activity.
The foregoing examples are illustrative, but are not an exhaustive list, of the types of matters that the Clinic would potentially handle. This is because issues involving the rights of speech, press, assembly, and petition can arise in many different factual scenarios. 
If you believe you may have a First Amendment matter that the Clinic could assist you with, please contact us.

How is the Clinic funded?

The Clinic is funded by The Stanton Foundation whose philanthropic mission includes supporting expressive freedoms protected by the First Amendment and fostering a more informed citizenry.

How is the Clinic staffed?

The Clinic is directed by Assistant Clinical Professor Clare R. Norins and staffed by a legal fellow, administrative support specialist, and law students who are enrolled in the Clinic each semester.

How Can We Help?

Whether you are seeking legal representation or have a general question, the First Amendment Clinic may be able to help.