Call for Applications for FIRE’s Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellowship

By February 11, 2009

FIRE is pleased to announce a call for applications for our Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellowship.

Initiated in 2007, the Jackson Fellowship allows recent law school graduates an opportunity to work closely with FIRE’s President and Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, substantively engaging issues and cases that represent the cutting edge of First Amendment jurisprudence and higher education law. Beginning in September, Jackson Fellows will work from FIRE’s New York office for two years. More information about the Fellowship, including instructions on how to apply, is available here. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Our inaugural Jackson Fellows, Azhar Majeed and Kelly Sarabyn of the University of Michigan Law School and Yale Law School respectively, have produced several pieces of original legal scholarship on subjects related to FIRE’s work during their term as Fellows. Azhar has two articles slated for publication this spring: "Learning from DeJohn v. Temple University: The Misapplication of Peer Harassment Law on University Campuses and the Loss of Student Speech Rights" in the Journal of College and University Law and "Defying the Constitution: The Rise, Persistence, and Prevalence of Campus Speech Codes" in the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy. Kelly also has a piece scheduled to be published this month: "The Twenty-Sixth Amendment: Resolving the Federal Circuit Split over College Students’ First Amendment Rights," forthcoming in the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.

The Jackson Fellowship was established in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, whose extraordinary commitment to liberty, independent thought and constitutional principle is a sterling example to FIRE and all who value freedom and the courage required to sustain it. FIRE is tremendously proud to pay tribute to Justice Jackson, whose illuminating eloquence lights our way forward still:

Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority.

To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 64142 (1943).