Legal experts to discuss scope, boundaries of free expression

A pair of leading First Amendment scholars will explore the scope and boundaries of freedom of expression during a Sept. 26 conversation at Cornell Law School, the first Milstein Symposium in a series planned during the university’s theme year, “The Indispensable Condition: Freedom of Expression at Cornell.”

Freedom of Expression

Presented by the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation, the event, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Myron Taylor Hall’s Landis Auditorium, will feature Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and adjunct professor of law and journalism at Columbia Law School, and Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law.

Dean of Faculty Eve De Rosa will moderate the conversation, which will be recorded and made available on the theme year’s website.

“We are thrilled to welcome Professors Jaffer and Volokh, experts and leaders on the forefront of intellectual discussions happening around the First Amendment, free speech online, technology and intersections with other areas of law,” said Gautam Hans, associate clinical professor of law and associate director of the First Amendment Clinic at Cornell Law, who helped organize the event. “Their dynamic and informative conversation will demonstrate how people who are deeply committed to these values may come out differently on what the right answers should be.”

Under Jaffer’s leadership, the Knight Institute has filed precedent-setting litigation, undertaken interdisciplinary research and become an influential voice in debates about the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age. He previously served as deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, where he led or co-led litigation teams that compelled the Bush administration to disclose the “torture memos,” compelled the Obama administration to disclose the “drone memos,” and compelled the National Security Agency to abandon its dragnet surveillance of Americans’ call records. He also played a major part in the ACLU’s decision to take on the representation of Edward Snowden.

Jaffer has argued in multiple appeals courts, as well as in the U.S. Supreme Court, and has testified many times before the U.S. Congress. He is a graduate of Williams College, Cambridge University and Harvard Law School.

Volokh teaches First Amendment law and a First Amendment amicus brief clinic at UCLA Law, where he has also taught copyright, criminal and tort law and a seminar on firearms regulation policy. Before joining UCLA, Volokh clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge Alex Kozinski on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is the author of the textbooks “The First Amendment and Related Statutes and “Academic Legal Writing,” as well as more than 90 law review articles, and is the founder and co-author of the legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy.

Before attending law school, Volokh graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in math-computer science at age 15, worked as a computer programmer for 12 years and has written many articles on computer software. Born in the Soviet Union, he emigrated to the U.S. with his family at age 7.

The inaugural Milstein Symposium follows the theme year’s kickoff with a Sept. 7 panel discussion on the fundamentals of free expression, and on Sept. 12, a lecture featuring New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie. Additional upcoming theme year events include:

  • Sept. 22, 3:30-5 p.m.: An international panel of artists will discuss artistic freedom as a fundamental democratic right, one often at the vanguard of political resistance and change, at “Politics, Art, and Free Expression,” hosted by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Sponsored by the museum and Global Cornell, the event will be held in person and livestreamed here.
  • Sept. 23, 7 p.m.: A performance of “Scalia/Ginsburg,” a one-act comedic opera about the unlikely friendship between U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 and Antonin Scalia, in the Memorial Room of Willard Straight Hall, presented by the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.
  • Sept. 28: The opening of “Fashioning the Bounds of Free Speech,” an exhibit exploring fashion and art as forms of symbolic speech and expressive conduct that shape the limits and possibilities of freedom of expression in the U.S. This exhibit will be on display through Jan. 15 in the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection in the Human Ecology Building, 37 Forest Home Drive.

Media Contact

Damien Sharp