The "conservative" justices on the Roberts Court are often passionately restrained in their interpretation of the Constitution in precisely the cases in which a more muscular form of judicial review is most appropriate -- those involving discrimination against African Americans, women, Hispanics, religious dissenters, gays and lesbians, persons accused of crime, and denial of the right to vote to minorities and the poor. In these cases, our contemporary "conservative" justices often err on the side of upholding laws that even Philip Kurland would have found unconstitutional. This is, in my view, a sad state of affairs.
What if I told you that the most pertinent social science subject -- one that affects every single one of us every single day -- is taught to only a select few? That would be absurd, right? Well, unfortunately this is no fiction. It is the state of legal knowledge in America, and it is profoundly troubling.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, perhaps the most important First Amendment case in American history. In the words of the great First Amendment scholar Alexander Meiklejohn, the decision was "an occasion for dancing in the streets." Why was Sullivan so important?