Past Lecture Series

Critical Thinking For The Preservation of Our Democracy (2019)

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech, enshrined in the First Amendment, grants all Americans the liberty to speak their minds without the fear of censorship or prosecution. There are limitations, however, and lawmakers and judges continue to struggle with balancing free speech protections with the necessity of maintaining a civil and peaceful society. Should inflammatory hate speech be allowed? In 2010 the Supreme Court decided, in the Citizens United case, that individuals, corporations, and special interest groups have the right, under free speech guidelines, to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. Are those free speech guidelines justified?


  • Owen Fiss, Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  • Akhil Reed Amar, Professor of Law, Yale College and Yale Law School
  • David Bisno, Constitutional law scholar

Gun Rights

The Second Amendment to the Constitution established that "a well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Nowhere does it define "arms", and it neither permits nor denies gun ownership for private purposes. In 2008 the Supreme Court decided, in the Heller case, that individuals have an inherent right to own handguns for lawful purposes, unconnected with service in a militia. But does "handguns" include assault rifles? Sandy Hook and other tragedies have raised the profile of the gun rights issue to our schools and churches. Is it legal to monitor everyone who has been treated for mental illness?


  • Joseph Blocher, Professor, Duke Law School
  • Erin Murphy, Partner and Litigator, Kirkland & Ellis law firm
  • John Garvey, Professor, UNH School of Law

Affirmative Action

Most U.S. colleges are implementing special Affirmative Action admission policies where academic achievement is only one factor, designed to generate a student body with more economic, racial, sexual, and global diversity. They claim their broader student diversity pool results in enhanced multicultural understanding and critical thinking. Opponents of these policies claim they unfairly discriminate against applicants with better academic qualifications, and thus are a violation of civil rights laws. Several Asian-American students among this group have just sued Harvard, alleging racial discrimination. What are the legal merits of each position?


  • Neal Katyal, Partner, Hogan Lovells Law Firm; Professor of Law, Georgetown University
  • Adam Mortara, Partner, Bartlit Beck law firm and Lecturer, University of Chicago Law School
  • Daniel Benjamin, Director, John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, Dartmouth College

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the press has been regarded as an essential right in a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. A free media can be a watchdog that reports government wrongdoing, and it can be free to promote different and sometimes radical opinions on issues. Recently, as the media have proliferated and we have entered the digital world, many of them have reported blatantly inaccurate and "fake news". Some dark websites have become a forum for bigots, spewing hate rhetoric and inciting unlawful violence. Should some limitations be imposed?


  • RonNell Andersen Jones, Professor of Law, University of Utah Quinney College of Law
  • Andy Phillips, Partner and Litigator, Clare Locke law firm (DC)
  • Richard Tofel, President of ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism organization in NYC

Individual Privacy

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution restricts actions of the government to intrude into the privacy of its citizens, ensuring their security in their persons, houses, and property, and their protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement officers in today's digital world, however, have found new ways to track individuals and get possible incriminating data without a warrant. Authorities and social media can pervasively use an individual's personal data to track that person's behavior and communications. Should limits be placed on these actions?


  • Jennifer Daskal, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law (DC)
  • Neil Richards, Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis Law School
  • Peter Teachout, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School

Voting Rights

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed all discriminatory voting practices which denied people the right to vote. But some states have enacted practices that can potentially suppress voter rights – literacy tests, ID card requirements, residency requirements, purges of voter rolls, and gerrymandering. Is there proof these actions suppress voting rights? On June 27, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled against challenges to gerrymandering, refusing to halt even the most extreme partisan election district gerrymandering.


  • Debo Adegbile, Partner, Wilmer Hale Law Firm
  • Bradley Smith, Professor of Law, Capital University Law School
  • John Greabe, Professor of Law, UNH Law School

Additional Lecture Series

All clips provided courtesy of CATV. Visit our YouTube channel for a look at our past Summer Lecture Series.

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