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Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment [Paperback]

Anthony Lewis
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 1992 0679739394 978-0679739395
The First Amendment puts it this way: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Yet, in 1960, a city official in Montgomery, Alabama, sued The New York Times for libel -- and was awarded $500,000 by a local jury -- because the paper had published an ad critical of Montgomery's brutal response to civil rights protests. The centuries of legal precedent behind the Sullivan case and the U.S. Supreme Court's historic reversal of the original verdict are expertly chronicled in this gripping and wonderfully readable book by the Pulitzer Prize -- winning legal journalist Anthony Lewis. It is our best account yet of a case that redefined what newspapers -- and ordinary citizens -- can print or say.

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Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment + Gideon's Trumpet
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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

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679739394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679739395
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
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).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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
5.0 out of 5 stars a patriot's act 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Eyeopening!
This is an excellent primer on the history of one of our foundational rights as human beings and Americans. Read more
Published 14 months ago by toddmilner
5.0 out of 5 stars Speak no evil
"Make No Law" is a wonderful exploration of the Sullivan libel case, which pitted segregationists in 1960s Deep South against the New York Times. Read more
Published on November 18, 2010 by Jean E. Pouliot
3.0 out of 5 stars Its okay. JUST okay
Its okay. I had to get this book for my Communications Law class. It reads easier than most law books
Published on March 10, 2010 by Jillian S. Tyler
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
I thought it would be a boring book. Surprise! It is very well written, and it brings tons of historical facts about freedom of speech and of the press in a context of story... Read more
Published on February 8, 2007 by D. Caride
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible, left-leaning overview of first-amendment law
A very familiar, weak joke among my friends is to preface even the most self-apparent advice with the phrase "I am not a lawyer. Read more
Published on March 26, 2005 by Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Another necessary free speech book
There is little to add to the other reviews. Lewis writes well, on a important enough subject. He idealizes the court's creation of, and support for, free speech doctrine. Read more
Published on January 30, 2005 by Adem Kendir
4.0 out of 5 stars Why press freedom matters...
A readable account of the libel case that dramatically defined and expanded the scope of press freedom. Read more
Published on October 13, 2003 by steve estvanik
1.0 out of 5 stars Overrated explanation of a biased application of law
As a history book, this is hardly objective. As a legal tome explaining the principles in the Times decision, it must be rated fair to poor. Read more
Published on March 20, 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Make NO LAW
I read this book in one of my undergraduate constitutional law classes on the First Amendment. "Make No Law" was an inciteful and intriguing look into the history behind... Read more
Published on December 17, 1999 by Thomas D. Payne, III
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