Published: March 8, 2021

Scholars will discuss the ideas explored in University of Colorado Law School Professor Helen Norton's recent book, The Government’s Speech and the Constitution, at the University of Illinois Law Review Symposium on April 16. The symposium aims to influence the conversation about the important yet underexplored constitutional implications of the government’s speech for years to come. Contributors include Erwin Chemerinsky, Danielle Keats Citron, Kate Shaw, Michael Kang, William Araiza, Alex Tsesis, Mary-Rose Papandrea, Wendy Parmet, Claudia Haupt, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Jacob Eisler, and Clifford Rosky.

Symposium Description

The government’s speech is inevitable and often constitutionally valuable: even at its most infuriating, the government’s speech informs the public about its government’s principles and priorities, providing us with important information that helps us evaluate our government. The Supreme Court has thus appropriately recognized that the Free Speech Clause generally does not bar the government’s ability to express its own views when doing the government’s work.

But as the government’s expressive capacities grow, so too does the potential for undermining others’ speech and distorting public discourse. Indeed, the government is unique among speakers because of its coercive power as sovereign, its considerable resources, its privileged access to key information, and its wide variety of speaking roles as policymaker, commander-in-chief, employer, educator, health care provider, property owner, and more. Yet, as Helen Norton suggests in her recent book on “The Government’s Speech and the Constitution,” the Court’s government speech doctrine to date remains dangerously incomplete in its failure to wrestle with the ways in which the government’s speech sometimes affirmatively threatens specific constitutional values.

When we discuss constitutional law, we usually focus on the constitutional rules that apply to what the government does. Far less clear are the constitutional rules that apply to what the government says. This Symposium will engage a variety of questions explored in Norton’s book: When does the speech of this unusually powerful speaker violate our constitutional rights and liberties? More specifically, when does the government’s expression threaten liberty or equality? And under what circumstances does the Constitution prohibit our government from lying to us?

(all times Central Time)
10:00-10:05: Welcoming Remarks
Vikram D. Amar, University of Illinois College of Law

10:05-10:15: Opening Keynote
Helen Norton, University of Colorado Law School

10:15-11:20: Panel I
Claudia E. Haupt and Wendy E. Parmet, Northeastern University School of Law
Kate Shaw, Cardozo School of Law
Danielle K. Citron, University of Virginia School of Law
Jason Mazzone, University of Illinois College of Law

11:20-11:30: Break

11:30-12:50: Panel II
William Araiza, Brooklyn Law School
Mary-Rose Papandrea, UNC School of Law
Clifford Rosky, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law
Alexander Tsesis, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Jason Mazzone, University of Illinois College of Law

12:50-13:00: Break

13:00-14:00: Panel III
Erwin Chemerinsky, UC Berkeley School of Law
Michael S. Kang, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and Jacob Eisler, University of Southampton Law School
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Stetson University College of Law
Jason Mazzone, University of Illinois College of Law

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