Cornell clinic represents citizen journalist sued for defamation

The First Amendment Clinic at Cornell Law School has stepped in to help a local citizen journalist fight a defamation lawsuit and proposed take-down order related to his watchdog coverage of local government.

Jim Meaney runs The Geneva Believer, a blog focused on the workings of his city government of Geneva, New York. He received a cease and desist letter in February accusing Mr. Meaney of defaming a construction company, Massa Construction, which had received millions of dollars of construction contracts from the City of Geneva.

The blog had raised several questions regarding these contracts, including whether there were conflicts of interest of City Council members, including one who is a Massa employee.

Upon receiving the cease and desist letter, Mr. Meaney reached out to the Cornell clinic for help. After reviewing the articles, the clinic concluded a suit violated New York’s anti-SLAPP statute. But before Cornell could respond, Massa filed a complaint for defamation in New York state court.

When the clinic, along with co-counsel Michael Grygiel of Greenberg Traurig, requested Massa withdraw the suit on the bases of defective pleading and New York’s anti-SLAPP protections, Massa doubled down and filed an amended complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order ex parte, seeking a permanent take down of 10 articles.

The Court denied Massa’s extreme request after the clinic and Greenberg submitted a letter arguing that the TRO constituted a prior restraint, and it calendared a hearing for March 25. The clinic and Greenberg filed an opposition on March 20, and the Court has moved the hearing to May 6 in light of the situation surrounding COVID-19.

The clinic very much looks forward to Mr. Meaney’s day in court. One of the clinic’s principal arguments is that the suit violates the First Amendment because the articles indiscriminately challenged by Massa report truthfully and accurately on a matter of legitimate public concern—the city’s business dealings implicating how it spends taxpayer funds on contractors. 

The full brief filed on behalf of Mr. Meaney can be found here.

Buffalo transparency clinic wins access to local jails’ records on suicide attempts

The University at Buffalo School of Law Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic, a Free Expression Legal Network member, successfully sued the Erie County Sheriff recently on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild Buffalo Chapter for access to the records of Buffalo’s local jails concerning suicide attempts by inmates.

The resulting records revealed that the sheriff, who runs the county’s jails, mischaracterized suicide attempts in the jails as “inmate disturbances” or “manipulative gestures.” This means that the jails failed to properly report suicide attempts to the state’s oversight commission, and the National Lawyers Guild argues it could frustrate attempts to prevent future suicides.

The clinic and the National Lawyers Guild won a near complete victory in the litigation, brought under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, in the trial court last fall. Among other things, the Court ordered the jail to turn over reports documenting incidents in the jails, internal policies and procedures, and relevant emails. As a result of the sheriff’s refusal to voluntarily release any documents, the clinic also won $27,000 in attorney’s fees.

The Sheriff’s Office has paid the attorney’s fees and produced many of the documents that were ordered released. It is appealing the lower court’s ruling, however, with respect to any emails.

The National Lawyers Guild argues that this appeal prevents it and the public from determining the full scope of the mischaracterization of suicide attempts in Buffalo’s jails. This issue is especially urgent because there has been a string of more than two dozen suicide deaths at the local jails in recent years, as The Buffalo News has written. More broadly, the jails have been cited as among the “worst offenders” for violations of state law by the state oversight commission.

A local reporter, Matt Spina, has covered the local jails for years. He assisted in this litigation by providing background on the jails’ past records practices and explaining the importance of the documents to the court. In an affidavit, Spina noted that it is “difficult or impossible to properly report stories” concerning local jails without the types of documents this lawsuit uncovered. The Buffalo News continues to publish stories about the litigation and also wrote an editorial strongly supporting the lawsuit and condemning the sheriff for appealing the order.

The clinic continues to represent the National Lawyers Guild in the appeal.

Clinics help transparency advocates win victory for public access to clinical trial data

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Yale Law School’s website.

ruling from a federal judge on February 24, 2020, will dramatically expand the public’s right to access results of clinical trials studying drugs and medical devices. The ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit brought by the Yale Media Freedom and Information Access (MFIA) and NYU Technology Law & Policy (TLP) Clinics on behalf of Charles Seife and Dr. Peter Lurie, with the support of the Yale Collaboration for Research Integrity and Transparency (CRIT).

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the Southern District of New York held that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have misinterpreted a 2007 law that requires drug companies, universities, and other sponsors of clinical trials to disclose the results of clinical trials of FDA-approved products to the public via the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

The court’s order requires the government to collect and post about a decade’s worth of trial results that should be public under the 2007 law — making data from potentially hundreds of clinical trials available for the first time. “This is an extraordinary victory for patients and clinical trial researchers,” said Joseph Ross, Professor of Medicine and Public Health and faculty co-director of Yale CRIT. “The government now has a clear legal obligation to enforce these reporting requirements, and by doing so it will promote more fully-informed decision-making by patients and their clinicians.”  

Background on ClinicalTrials.gov and the need for clinical trial data

High-quality medical care requires high-quality evidence. But sponsors of clinical trials that investigate the safety and efficacy of medical products don’t always publish their results where doctors and patients can find them, according to the clinic. Instead, sponsors may “cherry-pick” data by publishing favorable clinical trial results and keeping secret unfavorable results.

“Recognizing this problem, Congress enacted the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA) to ensure a flow of clinical trial evidence to patients, clinicians, and researchers through the public ClinicalTrials.gov website,” said Christopher Morten, supervising attorney at the TLP Clinic. “Yet NIH and HHS promulgated a rule and an interpretation of FDAAA that created an illegal ‘loophole.’” As MFIA student Simon Brewer explained, “the loophole purported to exempt many clinical trials of FDA-approved products completed between 2007 and 2017 from any obligation to ever report their results to ClinicalTrials.gov.” 

Seife emphasized the importance of the law: “The FDA is in charge of making sure that drugs on the market are safe and effective, but without access to data about those drugs, it’s nearly impossible to understand whether the agency is doing its job properly. ClinicalTrials.gov is a key source of this data.”

The MFIA-TLP lawsuit on behalf of Seife and Lurie

Seife and Lurie are two leading researchers on clinical trials whose research has been hindered by the absence of information on ClinicalTrials.gov. Seife is an investigative journalist at NYU whose work focuses on science and technology. Lurie is a family physician, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and a former associate commissioner of the FDA.

In December 2018, MFIA filed suit on Seife and Lurie’s behalf. The suit sought to close the loophole and requested a declaration that NIH’s and HHS’s interpretation of FDAAA was inconsistent with the statute. Brewer argued Seife and Lurie’s case in court on February 11, 2020.

Judge Buchwald’s decision, issued on February 24, was a victory for Seife and Lurie on their loophole claim. The court concluded that “FDAAA unambiguously requires responsible parties [i.e., trial sponsors] to submit, and defendants to include on ClinicalTrials.gov,” results for loophole trials and therefore that “HHS’s contrary interpretation . . . is unlawful and must be set aside.”

“Judge Buchwald’s decision will help ensure that these government agencies and the drug and device industries are jointly held to account, and that the promise of the clinicaltrials.gov database be finally fulfilled,” said Lurie. “True transparency requires that all results of clinical trials be truthfully reported, be they positive, negative, or somewhere in between — and even in cases where the study sponsors or FDA would prefer not to disclose.”

The court also held that it could not grant relief on a separate claim, which asked for an order requiring NIH to post public notices of noncompliance whenever sponsors fail to submit results. Seife and Lurie are considering a potential appeal of this claim with their legal team.

Besides Brewer and Morten, Seife and Lurie’s legal team also included John Langford ’14, Adam Pan ’18, Jennifer Pinsof, and David Schulz ’78 of MFIA and Jason Schultz of the TLP Clinic. The lawsuit was conceived and supported throughout by CRIT members, including Alex Egilman, Gregg Gonsalves, Amy Kapczynski ’03, Harlan Krumholz, Shweta Kumar, Margaret McCarthy, Jennifer Miller, Joe Ross, and Joshua Wallach, and was further supported by Merith Basey of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines.

MFIA is a student clinic at Yale Law School dedicated to increasing government transparency and advancing the public’s right of access to information. TLP is a student clinic at NYU School of Law focused on issues at the intersection of technology, law, and social justice. The Collaboration for Research Integrity and Transparency (CRIT) is an interdisciplinary initiative launched in 2016 to enhance the quality and transparency of the research base for medical products. CRIT has received funding from Arnold Ventures. The lawsuit does not represent the institutional views of Yale University or NYU.  

UPDATE: Legal Clinic Fund proposals due May 8

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on March 23, 2020, to reflect that the deadline has been extended to May 8.

A group of foundations announced that the Legal Clinic Fund is accepting proposals for a second round of funding for law school clinics.

The Legal Clinic Fund, launched last year, supports clinics “that seek to advance and defend First Amendment rights, media freedom, and transparency in their communities and nationally.” It provides grants for clinics’ growth, capacity building and experimentation to help ensure that journalists across the country have access to needed legal support.  

Proposals are due by the end of the day on May 8, with notifications of the awards planned for June. The original deadline of April 3 was extended as universities across the nation shifted to online and remote education to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The fund is supported by The Abrams Foundation, Democracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation. The Miami Foundation serves as fiscal sponsor.

In 2019, the fund announced its first four recipients:

  • The University of Buffalo Civil Liberties & Transparency Clinic to expand its work with journalists, newsrooms and nonprofits in Western New York and the surrounding regions
  • Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic to launch the Initiative for a Representative First Amendment (IfRFA), which provides financial support and career opportunities for law students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in First Amendment law
  • The Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic at University of California Irvine to increase its capacity to support independent journalists, documentary filmmakers, bloggers, media advocacy groups and others, with a particular focus on California
  • Cornell Law School’s First Amendment Clinic to expand its Local Journalism Project, which serves local and regional newsgatherers in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania and nearby states


More information about the application process and fund guidelines is available on the fund’s webpage.

All questions should be directed to Lindsey Linzer from The Miami Foundation at LLinzer@miamifoundation.org.

Clinic coalition leads effort to limit Supreme Court’s ruling in Food Marketing Institute

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2019 decision Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader (FMI) dramatically changed the landscape of the Freedom of Information Act’s (FOIA) Exemption 4 for “confidential” “commercial or financial” “information.” But a coalition of transparency clinics — led by Cornell Law School’s First Amendment Clinic in tandem with Yale’s Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic as well as co-counsel from Vinson & Elkins’s Tom Leatherbury — is pushing back in a case in the Southern District of New York.

These clinics represent science journalist Charles Seife, who argued in summary judgment papers in September and December in front of Judge Furman that 2016 FOIA amendments limit the scope of the Food Marketing Institute decision, and that even under the Supreme Court’s new test, Seife should prevail in his efforts to obtain critical information related to the efficacy of an important FDA-approved drug.

The coalition argues that the textualist approach employed by the court in FMI applies equally to a new standard, enacted by Congress in 2016, known as the “foreseeable harm” requirement — an issue not considered in FMI, which involved a 2011 FOIA request prior to the effective date of these amendments. This standard requires agencies to reasonably foresee a harm from disclosure of the sought-after information before blocking its release.

In Seife’s case, neither the government (specifically, the FDA and HHS) nor the private intervenor-defendant (a drug company known as Sarepta Therapeutics) meaningfully engaged on the issue of whether there was a finding of foreseeable harm in this case, arguing instead that FMI decided issues related to the foreseeable harm standard even though they were never presented to the Supreme Court.

Seife also makes other important arguments:  That the 2016 amendments baked into FOIA a public interest in “knowing what the government is up to” as well as a rigorous and meaningful standard for the new FMI test that does not simply allow the government to state that information is “confidential” to render it so.

The case is now fully submitted to Judge Furman, and the clinics are awaiting a decision.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the team for fighting so long and hard on this case,” Seife said. “Journalists, especially freelancers, often don’t have the resources to fight in court for information withheld by the government. In this case, however, Yale and Cornell and Vinson & Elkins have made it possible to push for documents that are important for the public to understand not just what the government is doing behind the scenes when it approves drugs, but also crucial to understanding the safety and effectiveness of new medications.”

Read more from the clinics’ filings in the case:

Photo by Joe Ravi is licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Applications open for IfRFA summer fellowship program

The Initiative for a Representative First Amendment (IfRFA) is current accepting applications for fellowships to work on free expression issues at a law school clinic in summer 2020.

First- and second-year law school students who self-identify as a person from a background underrepresented in First Amendment law are eligible for the program, which also includes a seminar that will reflect on students’ experiences. IfRFA, based at the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic and directed by Kendra Albert, aims to provide career opportunities and financial support to students from these underrepresented backgrounds.

Applications are due Jan. 10, with fellowship decisions made in February. IfRFA will help place fellows with First Amendment or free expression clinics once they are selected.

More information about the program and the application requirements are available at: www.ifrfa.org.

IfRFA is funded by the Legal Clinics Fund.

Screenshot via the IfRFA website

New Media Rights helps bring the story of farm workers advocate Maria Moreno to PBS

A version of this post originally appeared on New Media Rights’ blog on December 3, 2019.

New Media Rights attorneys and California Western School of Law students recently worked on “Adios Amor,” a powerful documentary by Jane Greenberg and Laurie Coyle that debuted on PBS this fall.

In “Adios Amor,” the discovery of lost photographs sparks the search for a hero that history forgot—Maria Moreno, a migrant mother driven to speak out by the hunger of her 12 children. Years before Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta launched the United Farm Workers, Maria picked up the only weapon she had—her voice—and became an outspoken leader in an era when women were relegated to the background. The first farm worker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer, Maria’s story was silenced and her legacy buried—until now.

Documentaries often need a variety of legal services, from hiring a crew, to copyright, fair use and licensing, to distribution agreements. New Media Rights works with a variety of documentary and fictional video creators to overcome the legal hurdles to making their productions a reality.

“We are grateful to New Media Rights for their review and Fair Use opinion letter of our documentary film,” said Laurie Coyle, director/producer, and Jane Greenberg, co-producer. “The clinic stuck with the review despite our extended timeline. Staff was extremely knowledgeable, thorough and professional and saved us money. Our E&O underwriter accepted the review without question. We would gladly work with New Media Rights on future projects and highly recommend the clinic.”

New Media Rights Executive Director Art Neill said his organization and students were “proud to have helped on the legal side to ensure that Maria Moreno’s story reaches the public. The film tells a largely unheard but important story about a mother and advocate who played an important role in advancing farmer workers’ rights.”

New Media Rights student fellow Alexandra Inman, currently a third-year student at California Western School of Law, worked with Neill on this project.

“As someone who aspires to work in entertainment law, it is a great experience to work through a fair use review for a documentary filmmaker,” Inman said. “It’s wonderful to practice on something that is often discussed in an interview in entertainment law and is not a common experience for a law student. Working alongside a filmmaker as they are turning their ideas into a final product to be enjoyed by a broad audience is an exhilarating experience that encourages practice of many of the client engagement skills we learn throughout law school while actively advocating for the creative ideas of our client.”

Photo via the “Adios Amor” Facebook page.

Newsletter: Three new First Amendment clinics launching next year

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on Nov. 27, 2019, to add two additional news items.

Welcome to the inaugural newsletter from the Free Expression Legal Network, a coalition of law school clinics, law professors and others working on free speech, free press and government accountability issues. This newsletter will highlight the important work done by our members and others in this space. We’ll be experimenting with content and timing over the next few months, so please let us know what you think.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter here.

Three new First Amendment clinics launching next year

Law schools at Tulane University, the University of Georgia and Southern Methodist University have recently announced they will add First Amendment clinics next year, thanks to grants from the Stanton Foundation.

The clinics will allow students to represent clients in matters related to the First Amendment rights of speech, press, petition and assembly. Tulane and UGA will be hiring directors, while SMU has appointed Tom Leatherbury as director of its clinic. [Read more]

Tulane, UGA and SMU will join a number of clinics launched recently to work on First Amendment issues. Stanton, for example, has also helped start First Amendment clinics at the University of Washington at St. LouisArizona State UniversityCornell UniversityDuke University, and Vanderbilt University, all within the past couple years. The University of Virginia also re-launched its First Amendment Clinic this year in partnership with the Reporters Committee, and George Mason University started a Free Speech Clinic in 2018.

With these 10 new, relaunched or soon-to-launch clinics since 2018, there are now more than a dozen clinics focused exclusively on First Amendment and/or government transparency issues. There are also more than a dozen other clinics, focused on tech law, intellectual property or other subjects, doing significant work in this space.

Enter the Free Expression Legal Network, which helps many of these clinics collaborate and share resources and other tools. The FELN website highlights some of the clinics’ work, and we’ll use this newsletter to do that too.

+ See also: FELN’s public launch sparked coverage by Law.com on the increasing number of these law school clinics
+ ICYMI: FELN formally launched in September with 22 clinic members and more than two dozen law professors

Recently on FreeExpression.law

UC-Irvine’s Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic won disclosure of child services records earlier this year, revealing how social workers failed to protect a 10-year-old Los Angeles boy from years of alleged physical abuse, eventually ending with his death and murder charges being filed against his mother and her boyfriend. [Read more]

The Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic announced the Initiative for a Representative First Amendment, a fellowship program for legal practitioners and practitioners-in-training who exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. The Initiative will provide stipends for fellows to work at legal clinics specializing in First Amendment or freedom of expression work. [Read more]

+ See also: Harvard’s initiative is one of four grants made during the first round of the Legal Clinics Fund

The Cornell First Amendment Clinic also received support from the Fund to expand its Local Journalism Project, which provides pro bono representations to investigative journalists and news outlets that cannot otherwise afford representation. So far, the clinic has represented a New York newspaper alleging First Amendment retaliation for publishing critical editorials of its local government’s decision to disband the paid fire department, and also uncovered potential violations of open meetings laws by this same government. It has also helped a freelance journalist separately obtain documents related to rape kit testing. The clinic will hire a full-time staff attorney to help teach students as well as oversee cases as part of the Project.

American University’s Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic recently provided intellectual property counseling on the PBS documentary film “Look Who’s Driving,” about self-driving vehicles. [Read more]

In the News

>> As VTDigger reports, the Cornell First Amendment Clinic’s ongoing representation of the Vermont news outlet helped uncover missing documents related to the nation’s largest EB-5 scandal. (EB-5 is a federal program that allows foreign investors to obtain green cards in the United States in exchange for investing a minimum of $500,000 for the creation of 10 jobs in economically impoverished areas.) The State of Vermont admitted it could not find emails from one of the top officials who oversaw the state’s administration of the EB-5 program, and was unable to explain what happened to these emails. In part due to Cornell’s efforts on VTDigger’s behalf, the state conducted an audit of its email system and uncovered a missing external hard drive with additional documents, which it produced.

>> The St. Louis American writes that the First Amendment Clinic at Washington University represents a woman who alleges that a police officer violated her First Amendment rights when he took her cellphone while she was videoing an arrest.

>> KPNX-12 News in Phoenix reports on documents from the Arizona Public Service, which the ASU First Amendment Clinic helped them obtain. The internal customer survey results contradict the public utility’s claims that most customers were satisfied with the company.

>> The Associated Press notes that the ASU First Amendment Clinic also helped the AP gain access to the 2017 findings of a court-appointed investigator re-examining misconduct investigations by the office of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The AP reports that the documents show, among other things, that Arpaio’s aides ignored a court’s order to stop immigration sweeps that targeted Latinos.

>> Courthouse News Service writes that the University of Virginia First Amendment Clinic argued on behalf of the Virginia Press Association that a $50 million defamation by implication lawsuit by actor Johnny Depp against his former wife could have a chilling effect on the state’s news organizations. The proposed amicus brief was also covered by the Associated Press.

>> The Richmond Times-Dispatch explains that the Yale Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic represents the newspaper and other news media organizations in suing the Virginia Department of Corrections to allow citizens and journalists to witness executions in the state from start to finish. The lawsuit was also covered by the Associated Press.

FELN Job Board

A number of positions, including clinical staff, fellowships and a summer associate position, are listed on the FELN Jobs Board. Contact each organization directly with questions or to confirm the position is still open.

If you have a job posting of interest to clinicians or students, email it to jmoore (at) rcfp.org.

Other Recent Work

The Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic at UC-Irvine is representing the First Amendment Coalition in a motion to unseal records in the criminal case against a man charged in the stabbing death of a teenager at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland.

In Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix LLC, a Ninth Circuit case concerning copyright fair use, Berkeley’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic filed an amicus brief, and the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief as well.

Yale’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a lawsuit challenging a Texas statute making it a crime for journalists and others to use drones for newsgathering and similar activities. The suit is on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association, the Texas Press Association and an independent journalist.

Duke’s First Amendment Clinic filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Butler v. Board of County Commissioners for San Miguel County, which involves the First Amendment’s application to government employee speech.

+ See also: The First Amendment Clinic at Washington University also filed an amicus brief in Butler on behalf of a group of First Amendment scholars, many of which are non-clinician members of FELN.

The University of Virginia’s First Amendment Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Reporters Committee in support of a motion to dismiss by Daniel Hale, a former Air Force service member being prosecuted for allegedly leaking classified documents about the “targeted killing” drone program.

FELN Repository

New resource

History of the First Amendment Lecture: Gabe Rottman, director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee who also teaches the First Amendment Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law, recently gave an hour-long lunchtime lecture (to both lawyers and non-lawyers) on the history of the First Amendment. This lecture is now available for FELN members to download and share with students in whatever way that may be useful. 

Syllabi

Over the summer, we added additional syllabi to the repository as well. A number of members used these examples while they were creating or modifying their syllabi for this academic year.

+ Contribute: Take a moment to share your current syllabi (and any other internal documents, court documents, etc.) by emailing jmoore (at) rcfp.org. That’s also how you can get the password to the member-only folders.

At the Supreme Court

A number of clinics recently filed amicus briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court in Georgia v. Public.Resource.org, which asks whether annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated are copyrightable. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Dec. 2.

  • Berkeley’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, on behalf of major library associations [Brief]
  • Colorado’s Samuelson-Glushko Tech Law & Policy Clinic, on behalf of disability advocates [Brief]
  • Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic, on behalf of the Caselaw Access Project, a team of legal researchers, software developers and law librarians [Brief]
  • Stanford’s IP and Innovation Clinic, on behalf of next-generation legal research platforms and databases [Brief]
  • USC’s IP & Tech Law Clinic, on behalf of 39 law students, 24 solo and small-firm practitioners of law, and 38 legal educators, including some FELN members [Brief]
  • Vanderbilt’s First Amendment Clinic, on behalf of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the Florida-based Human Rights Defense Center [Brief]

Share your news with us

🗞️ Keep us in the loop on what your clinic is working on so we can share it on FreeExpression.law or in this newsletter (deadline for next month’s newsletter is Dec. 12): jmoore (at) rcfp.org

💬 We would love to hear your ideas, feedback or questions about this newsletter: jmoore (at) rcfp.org

👥 Think someone else would enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a colleague. They can sign up here.

This newsletter was compiled by Josh Moore at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Tulane, UGA, SMU to add First Amendment clinics in 2020

The number of First Amendment clinics across the country continues to grow, with three law schools recently announcing clinics that will launch in fall 2020.

The Stanton Foundation provided grants to establish new clinics at Tulane University, the University of Georgia and Southern Methodist University. Each of the clinics will allow students to represent clients in matters related to the First Amendment rights of speech, press, petition and assembly.

The First Amendment Clinic at Tulane Law School will hire a new director to lead the clinic, according to the school’s announcement. It will also be advised by a panel of Tulane faculty, including Amy Gajda, Stephen Griffin, Catherine Hancock, Lucia Blacksher Ranier and Keith Werhan.

“In the classroom and through the clinic, Tulane will prepare future generations of lawyers and civic leaders committed to defending First Amendment values critical to our democracy,” Dean David Meyer said.

The University of Georgia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic has also begun searching for a director, according to the school’s press release.

“The law school community is excited about this partnership, which will not only support the First Amendment, but also give our law students the chance to protect the rights of individuals and to raise civic awareness in communities throughout the Southeast as they learn how to navigate cases and assist clients so they will be effective lawyers after graduation,” Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said.

At Southern Methodist University, the Dedman School of Law appointed First Amendment attorney Tom Leatherbury as the new First Amendment Clinic’s first director, according to the university’s release. The school will hire a full-time fellow to handle day-to-day administration.

“This Clinic will make its mark across the state and the nation, using best practices of clinical legal education to strengthen First Amendment values and to improve access to justice,” Leatherbury said.

The Stanton Foundation, which also supports First Amendment clinics at a number of other universities across the country, was created by Frank Stanton, the long-time president of CBS.

For links to the job postings associated with the new clinics, visit FELN’s Jobs Board.

American’s IP Clinic advises PBS documentary ‘Look Who’s Driving’

Students at American University’s Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic recently provided intellectual property counseling on the documentary film “Look Who’s Driving,” which debuted on PBS on October 23.

The 53-minute film by Kikim Media aired on PBS’s science program NOVA. It explores how self-driving cars function, how they may change the way we live and whether they are safe.

The clinic’s blog post on the documentary notes that its “work on this film is part of its long-standing effort helping documentary filmmakers follow best fair use practices.”

Photo via PBS International