- Hardcover: 488 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (June 4, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300190875
- ISBN-13: 978-0300190878
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Friend of the Court: On the Front Lines with the First Amendment Hardcover – June 4, 2013
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In his long career, Abrams has been involved in most of the major cases challenging and defining free speech, from the Pentagon Papers to Citizens United to WikiLeaks. In this highly accessible collection of speeches, letters, testimony, and public debate, Abrams explores the landscape of free-speech issues in the U.S. during the past 50 years. He argues that free speech is not an ideological concept, noting its use by liberals to defend organized labor and civil rights and antiwar protestors and by conservatives to defend antiabortion protestors and corporate support for political candidates. Abrams devotes sections to press freedom, libel and privacy issues, international perspectives, national security, copyright laws in the Internet age, and free-speech conflicts in various presidential administrations, including those of Roosevelt, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush. Devoting an entire section to the Citizens United case, Abrams addresses criticism of his position in support of corporate free speech. In his final chapter, he reflects on complex free-speech issues that defy political ideology. --Vanessa Bush
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Top Customer Reviews
As an example, I found his chapter entitled "Freedom In Especially Perilous Times" particularly thought-provoking. Here he discusses Lincoln's repeated and wide-ranging "frontal attacks" on civil liberties during the Civil War and his own doubts about his condemnation of such "incursions" into our basic human rights in times when our country's security is threatened:
"There was reason, good reason, for the gravest concern about the very survival of our nation. And in such times, it is difficult not to wonder about just which actions we really do condemn in our bones -- what it is, that is, that we think he should have done."
He persuaded me, against my personal bias, that what the First Amendment protects is political speech - whether it is exercised by individuals or corporations. He pointed out that the majority opinion by Justice Kennedy cited 25 other Supreme Court cases in which corporations had been provided this protection. Of course many of those corporations were newspapers and the First Amendment specifically includes freedom of the press. However other corporations have also been protected.
Abrams also warns of the potential dangers of allowing Congress and/or state legislatures to decide which speech should be limited or banned. (I of course recommend you read the more complete and expert explanations of this issue in the book).
The book consists of copies of Mr. Abrams' speeches, newspaper and magazine articles, transcripts of media interviews and debates etc. Many other First Amendment cases are discussed including the Pentagon Papers case. Discussions of Wikileaks and the Internet are also timely and thought provoking.
I won't say this is a "page turner." I had to read several of his sentences more than once and stop and think about his opinions and reasoning. Usually 20 to 30 pages was enough for one day. However there is humor included and the effort to understand this material is worthwhile. While Abrams is generally considered a liberal he strongly hits back at the liberals who attacked the Citizens United decision. I found many of these comments entertaining. I highly recommend the book and I expect not all who read it will be as convinced by his arguments as I was.