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Clasped hands in robe with CHF logo and text overlay: BELIEF, October 28 - November 12
CHF 2009: Laughter

Laughter and the First Amendment

Parody, mockery, and satire are common tools in a humorist’s arsenal, and since our nation’s birth they have been used to ridicule public figures in public debates. When, however, does this vein of humor cross the legal line? A distinguished panel of jurists and scholars discusses the comedians and cases that tested the limits of the First Amendment. Examples include Lenny Bruce’s obscenity conviction, the Supreme Court decisions involving George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” monologue, and the dispute between Jerry Falwell and Hustler magazine over the outer bounds of permissible parody. Leading First Amendment scholar Geoffrey Stone moderates the panel. Participants include Ronald Collins, scholar at the First Amendment Center and coauthor of The Trials of Lenny Bruce, and Judges William J. Bauer and Diane P. Wood of the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

Generously sponsored by the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation.

Hugh Hefner Foundation

Speakers and Performers

William Bauer

William Bauer is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. Born in Chicago, he served in the U.S. Army before earning his A.B. from Elmhurst College in 1949 and his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1952. In 1974, President Gerald Ford nominated Bauer to his seat on the Seventh Circuit, where he served as chief judge from 1986 to 1993 and assumed senior status in 1994. He still maintains an active caseload. He and his wife live in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Ronald Collins

Ronald Collins is a scholar at the Washington, D.C., office of the First Amendment Center, where he writes and lectures on freedom of expression. Before coming to the center, Collins served as a law clerk to Justice Hans A. Linde on the Oregon Supreme Court and thereafter was a judicial fellow under Chief Justice Warren Burger at the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the co-author of The Trials of Lenny Bruce and two forthcoming books on freedom of speech.

Geoffrey Stone

Geoffrey R. Stone is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and he has served as dean of the Law School (1987-1994) and as provost of the University of Chicago (1994-2002). He is the author of many books on constitutional law, including Speaking Out: Reflections of LawLiberty and Justice; Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark; and War and Liberty: An American Dilemma. In the fall of 2013, he served on the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

Diane Wood

Diane Wood is a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a senior lecturer in law at the University of Chicago Law School. Judge Wood attended the University of Texas at Austin, earning her B.A. in 1971 and her J.D. in 1975. She is a former faculty member of the Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Chicago Law School and also served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

CHF Suggests      Related links and resources for further study

Leaders And Thinkers

Lee C. Bollinger (b. 1946)
First Amendment scholar and 19th president of Columbia University
Laurence Henry Tribe (b. 1941)
Constitutional scholar at the Harvard Law School
Timothy Zick
Constitutional law scholar at William & Mary Law School

Related Events

DePaul College of Law
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The University of Chicago Law School
Symposia, workshops, lectures

Good Reads

The First Amendment in the News
Compiled by The New York Times
Feminists Against the First Amendment (11/1992)
The Atlantic on the critique of a movement
Why 2024 Will Be Like Nineteen Eighty-Four (07/20/2009)
Slate on Amazon's remote deletion of e-books from the Kindle

Online Resources

Audio: National Public Radio on the First Amendment
An archive of free speech
Video: Rap and the First Amendment
Lyrics and free speech (7:52)
First Amendment Law Prof Blog
Edited by Kathleen A. Bergin and Josie F. Brown
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