First Amendment News

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First Amendment News 270.1: Noted First Amendment lawyer John Weston dies

September 14, 2020

“Well, Mr. Chief Justice, the problem, the objection in this setting [concerning the secondary effects doctrine] is that we are all being asked to participate in some sort of charade.”

— John Weston, exchange with Chief Justice Rehnquist in City of L.A. v. Alameda Books (Nov. 10, 1999)

Last week the First Amendment community lost a giant in the area of free speech litigation: John  H. Weston. John, a seasoned appellate advocate and past national chairman of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, argued seven First Amendment cases in the Supreme Court. To listen to those oral arguments is a lesson in what informed and nuanced appellate advocacy is like at its finest moments.

In his younger years, John was involved with the Free Speech Movement as an undergrad at Berkeley. Later, he worked with, and was mentored by, Stanley Fleishman.

Jerry Mooney, a partner in their law firm, said this of his friend:

John Weston was one of the nation’s most distinguished First Amendment attorneys. He spent five decades fighting for the important constitutional principle that speech should not be prohibited based upon its message. His lifelong battle against government censorship and government overreach helped establish the firm principle that the expression of ideas, no matter how distasteful, must be treated fairly. John argued seven cases before the United States Supreme Court, and scores of other appellate cases in state and federal courts nationwide, establishing much of the current case law regarding adult media. Through his efforts he made the freedom of all Americans greater and more secure. John was also a great friend and a wonderful human being.

The following is a list of the cases that John Weston argued before the Supreme Court:

This article is part of First Amendment News, an editorially independent publication edited by Professor Ronald K. L. Collins and hosted by FIRE as part of our mission to educate the public about First Amendment issues. Opinions expressed are those of the article's author(s) and may not reflect the opinions of FIRE or of Professor Collins.