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Free Speech Recordings

Free Speech Out Loud

Free Speech Out Loud is a reading series from FIRE dedicated to increasing accessibility to free speech jurisprudence and related materials. Free Speech Out Loud will be releasing audio recordings of famous First Amendment court opinions and other primary source documents that serve as the backbone of the free speech rights we enjoy today. We hope that these recordings will be useful for lawyers looking to refresh their knowledge, law students on the go, and other individuals looking to educate themselves using an audio medium.

Due to changes in citation styles over the years and for ease of listening, we have abridged some citations and removed string citations. For more information, visit our explanation.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Podcasts to stay up to date.


Recent Podcasts

Free Speech Recordings
Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971) 

Apr 08, 2021

Legal Question: Whether arresting someone for wearing a jacket that says “Fuck the Draft” under a California statute which prohibits “offensive conduct” violated the First Amendment. Justice Harlan delivered the opinion of the Court, at 00:41 Justice Blackmun, dissenting, at 24:03

Legal Question: Whether arresting someone for wearing a jacket that says “Fuck the Draft” under a California statute which prohibits “offensive conduct” violated the First Amendment.

Action: The application of the statute to Cohen’s expression was ruled to be unconstitutional because it did not meet the standard for fighting words or obscenity. The Court also rejected the state’s reasoning that they needed to protect unwilling viewers from Cohen’s display, noting that viewers “could effectively avoid further bombardment of their sensibilities by averting their eyes.”

Justice Harlan delivered the opinion of the Court, at 00:41

Justice Blackmun, dissenting, at 24:03

This opinion’s citations have been edited down for ease of listening. For more information, visit our explanation.

For more on Cohen v. California, visit FIRE’s First Amendment Library.

For more episodes, visit thefire.org/outloud.

Chapters:
00:41 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
05:55 I. In order to lay hands ...
15:17 II. Against this background, the issue ...
24:03 MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN dissenting.

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Free Speech Recordings
Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972) 

Mar 18, 2021

Legal Question: Whether the First Amendment applies with equal force at public universities. Action: The lower court, which had affirmed the college’s denial of official recognition to the campus chapter, was reversed. The court remanded the case for reconsideration as to whether the campus chapter was willing to abide by reasonable campus rules.

Legal Question: Whether the First Amendment applies with equal force at public universities.

Action: The lower court, which had affirmed the college’s denial of official recognition to the campus chapter, was reversed. The court remanded the case for reconsideration as to whether the campus chapter was willing to abide by reasonable campus rules.

Mr. Justice Powell delivered the opinion of the Court, at 00:59

Chief Justice Burger, concurring, at 51:04

Justice Douglas, concurring, at 53:34

Justice Douglas, appendix, at 56:32

Justice Rehnquist, statement concurring, at 01:04:04

This opinion’s citations have been edited down for ease of listening. For more information, visit our explanation.

For more on Healy v. James, visit FIRE’s First Amendment Library.

For more episodes, visit thefire.org/outloud.

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Free Speech Recordings
Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988) 

Feb 05, 2021

Legal Question: Whether a high school principal’s removal of two articles from the student newspaper about pregnancy and divorce violated the First Amendment rights of the student editors. To what extent, consistent with the First Amendment, may educators exercise editorial control over school-sponsored speech? Action: The Court, overruling the Eighth Circuit, ruled that the removal did not violate the First Amendment.

Legal Question: Whether a high school principal’s removal of two articles from the student newspaper about pregnancy and divorce violated the First Amendment rights of the student editors. To what extent, consistent with the First Amendment, may educators exercise editorial control over school-sponsored speech?

Action: The Court, overruling the Eighth Circuit, ruled that the removal did not violate the First Amendment.

Justice Brennan, dissenting, at 32:41

This opinion’s citations have been edited down for ease of listening. For more information, visit our explanation.

For more on Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, visit FIRE’s First Amendment Library

For more episodes, visit thefire.org/outloud.

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Free Speech Recordings
Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri, 410 U.S. 667 (1973) 

Feb 05, 2021

Legal Question: Whether a university that expelled a student for reprinting an offensive cartoon and a profane article headline in a campus newspaper violated the First Amendment. Action: The Court held that ideas distastefully expressed are not unprotected, that the cartoon was not legally obscene, and that the student’s expulsion was based on content, and not on a valid time, place, and manner restriction.

Legal Question: Whether a university that expelled a student for reprinting an offensive cartoon and a profane article headline in a campus newspaper violated the First Amendment. Action: The Court held that ideas distastefully expressed are not unprotected, that the cartoon was not legally obscene, and that the student’s expulsion was based on content, and not on a valid time, place, and manner restriction.

Chief Justice Burger, joining the dissent, at 11:20

Justice Rehnquist, dissenting, at 13:23

This opinion’s citations have been edited down for ease of listening. For more information, visit our explanation.

For more on Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri, visit FIRE’s First Amendment Library

For more episodes, visit thefire.org/outloud.

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Free Speech Recordings
Bethel School District v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986) 

Feb 02, 2021

Legal Question: Whether school officials may prohibit a vulgar and lewd student speech at an assembly even if the speech does not create a substantial disruption. Action: The Court held the district was “within its permissible authority in imposing sanctions upon Fraser” in response to his speech. Justice Brennan, concurring, at 19:43 Justice Marshall, dissenting, at 26:28 Justice Stevens, dissenting, at 27:36

Legal Question: Whether school officials may prohibit a vulgar and lewd student speech at an assembly even if the speech does not create a substantial disruption.

Action: The Court held the district was “within its permissible authority in imposing sanctions upon Fraser” in response to his speech.

Justice Brennan, concurring, at 19:43

Justice Marshall, dissenting, at 26:28

Justice Stevens, dissenting, at 27:36

This opinion's citations have been edited down for ease of listening. For more information, visit our explanation.

Watch a brief overview of Bethel v. Fraser.

For more on Bethel v. Fraser, visit FIRE’s First Amendment Library.

For more episodes, visit thefire.org/outloud.

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