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Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment Paperback – September 1, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0679739395 ISBN-10: 0679739394

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679739394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679739395
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A riveting detailed account...[Make No Law] is nothing less than a comprehensive history of free speech in America.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

“Superbly written... a compelling drama that clearly places the Sullivan decision in the context of the court's still evolving notions of free speech and fully illuminates the constitutional principles at stake...an essential guide.” —Boston Globe

From the Publisher

"A riveting, detailed account...[Make No Law] is nothing less than a comprehensive history of free speech in America."--Philadelphia Inquirer

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Customer Reviews

Lewis writes well, on a important enough subject.
Adem Kendir
I read this book in one of my undergraduate constitutional law classes on the First Amendment.
Thomas D. Payne, III
The legal importance of the case alone justifies Mr. Lewis' interest.
Robert D. Harmon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on July 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
As with Gideon's Trumpet, Anthony Lewis (long time New York times columnist who went to Harvard Law so that he could better report on the Supreme Court) manages to explain a complex legal decision, set the decision against its historical background, explain the legal history of the Court's reasoning, and give cogent examples of how the case has been applied--all in a very readable book.
In the early 60's, the struggle for racial justice in the south had reached the boiling point. Bull Connor was using his dogs and hoses against non-violent blacks marching in the streets, and Alabama expelled several university students for sitting in at a restaurant. Martin Luther King had been arrested for tax fraud by the State of Alabama--claiming that SCLC funds had been diverted for his personal use (all charges were eventually dropped). The media was covering these events nationally (and increasingly internationally).
To raise some money, some southern ministers placed an ad in the New York Times, describing some of these events, and asking for money to defend Dr. King against the false charges.
A member of the Birmingham City Council, in a well orchestrated attempt to shut down northern media coverage, sued the New York Times for lible, and won a $500,000 verdict in state court.
These events set the stage for the now famous decision by the United States Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan.
While the decision was unanimous (at least in the result), Lewis digs deeper, and describes the process by which the judges meshed often incompatible views into a coherent rule of law, which continues to be applied today (although, not always as the Court intended).
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on July 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
As with Gideon's Trumpet, Anthony Lewis (long time New York times columnist who went to Harvard Law so that he could better report on the Supreme Court) manages to explain a complex legal decision, set the decision against its historical background, explain the legal history of the Court's reasoning, and give cogent examples of how the case has been applied--all in a very readable book.
In the early 60's, the struggle for racial justice in the south had reached the boiling point. Bull Connor was using his dogs and hoses against non-violent blacks marching in the streets, and Alabama expelled several university students for sitting in at a restaurant. Martin Luther King had been arrested for tax fraud by the State of Alabama--claiming that SCLC funds had been diverted for his personal use (all charges were eventually dropped). The media was covering these events nationally (and increasingly internationally).
To raise some money, some southern ministers placed an ad in the New York Times, describing some of these events, and asking for money to defend Dr. King against the false charges.
A member of the Birmingham City Council, in a well orchestrated attempt to shut down northern media coverage, sued the New York Times for lible, and won a $500,000 verdict in state court.
These events set the stage for the now famous decision by the United States Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan.
While the decision was unanimous (at least in the result), Lewis digs deeper, and describes the process by which the judges meshed often incompatible views into a coherent rule of law, which continues to be applied today (although, not always as the Court intended).
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Denise Brown on June 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
In "Make No Law" Lewis brilliantly chronicles the evolution of freedom of speech as American courts strive to interpret the broad language of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The courts' interpretation of the First Amendment within Founding Father James Madison's broad protection by "absolute immunity" for criticism is contrasted with the British premise that truth is NOT a defense for libel and if an individual is defamed they do NOT have to demonstrate damages to be awarded huge amounts of money. Lewis engagingly recounts the courts' struggle to ensure that plaintiffs with frivolous loss of reputation claims do not intimidate the whistleblower and the news reporter into the silence of self-censorship through vivid examples of individuals ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a simple "letter to the editor" and the incredible saga of the landmark Supreme Court case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which could have bankrupt the New York Times into oblivion in 1964. The courts must be ever wary that the threat of multi-million dollar judgments do not become mightier than the pen. After reading "Make No Law," the fight for Internet free speech detailed in another monograph, "Be Careful Who You SLAPP," will come into sharp focus as the tragic miscarriage of justice in modern times. Yet, hope remains for the American legal system. Read "Make No Law" and be a proud optimist. And never stop striving for "liberty and justice for all"!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert D. Harmon VINE VOICE on April 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was one reason why I took up the study of law at 50. Anthony Lewis begins with a Supreme Court case and ends up reviewing this country's long experience of free speech. The premise is simple enough: Sullivan v. New York Times, which started as a 1960 civil rights case, involving a defamation lawsuit in Alabama, and ending up as a pivotal Supreme Court ruling on freedom of speech and of the press. The legal importance of the case alone justifies Mr. Lewis' interest.
However, Mr. Lewis' real contribution, at least to me, are in the background chapters to the case, in which he goes back to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and tells of the ongoing tension between free speech and official power. His discussion of the WWI wartime legislation and its aftermath -- a period very much like the post-9/11 era in its attempts to legislate security -- is central to the book.
It is here that he acquaints us with the dissents by Justices Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes, dissents in freedom-of-speech cases that didn't prevail in that time but burn brightly ever since. One Brandeis quote suffices: "Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men ... no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present."
Mr. Lewis rightly regards these jurists with awe. Certainly their words are as noble as anything the Founding Fathers wrote on the nature of our liberties. If patriotism means an appreciation of the depth, timelessness and principle of our liberties, then you'll find much of that here.
I have read Anthony Lewis' earlier, arguably more famous book, Gideon's Trumpet, another work of reverence to our legal system, and would still put Make No Law ahead of it, though I also recommend Gideon's Trumpet as well. But this book did reinforce my own appreciation for this country's liberties and I cannot recommend it more highly.
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