#9 Spring 1992
TO SPONSOR "LAW SCHOOL CLASS" AT
l TAFOL FILES AMICUS CURIAE BRIEF OPPOSING
MANDATORY COMMUNITY SERVICE FOR HIGH
l TEXAS MANDATORY PRO BONO UPDATE
l CHANGES IN BOARD OF DIRECTORS
1992 Page 1
TO SPONSOR "LAW SCHOOL CLASS" AT
sponsor a discussion of the important Supreme Court defamation
New York Times v. Sullivan, on the evening of
July 1, 1992 at the Conceptual Conferences "Objectivism '92," to
be held at the Fort Magruder Inn, Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Sullivan case, decided in 1964, deals with the relationship between freedom
of the press on the one hand and the law of defamation
on the other. The case concerned an advertisement in the March
29, 1960 issue of The New York Times seeking support for the "civil
rights movement" in the south. The advertisement alleged violence
and widespread violations of constitutional rights in Montgomery,
Alabama. L. B. Sullivan was the Montgomery Commissioner of Public
Affairs. His duties included supervision of the police department.
He brought suit, claiming that these allegations libeled the police
and, because of his position, him. A jury found in his favor and
awarded him $500,000.00 in damages. The Supreme Court reversed
the jury verdict.
At the Williamsburg conference, each participant will be provided
in advance with an edited copy of the actual Sullivan opinion,
along with related materials. TAFOL President Steve Plafker will
start the session by conducting a discussion of the case, similar
to the discussion that a law professor would conduct in class.
Most of the discussion will concern the main issue in the case,
which is: to what extent does possible monetary liability for making
wrong statements interfere with one's right to express oneself
as protected by the First Amendment? At the end of the class, he
will give a short lecture covering side issues raised in the decision,
First Amendment history, and the law as it developed following
Sullivan. He will then entertain questions.
TAFOL FILES AMICUS CURIAE BRIEF OPPOSING MANDATORY COMMUNITY SERVICE
FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
filed its first amicus curiae ("friend of the court")
brief. The brief was filed in the case of Steirer v. Bethlehem
Area School District, which is on appeal to the United States Court
of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The plaintiffs in the case were students and parents who objected
to a program that denied a high school diploma to any high school
student who refused to provide 60 hours of unpaid community service.
The case was
first heard in the United States District Court for the Eastern
of Pennsylvania. The trial judge, presented
with cross motions for summary judgment, ruled that the program
did not constitute "involuntary servitude" under the
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The judge
also ruled that the students were not being forced to affirm a
belief in altruism as a desirable life philosophy, and so their
First Amendment rights were not violated.
On appeal, TAFOL focused most of its effort on arguing that the
program violates the First Amendment by permitting local school
officials to prescribe what shall be orthodox in matters of morality.
The following excerpt from the brief summarizes several important
One of the
most troubling aspects of this case is the School District's
that students need not believe in community
service so long as
they shut up and serve. This attitude brings
to mind the plight of the
Jewish conversos in 15th century Spain.
Although the situation in this case
differs drastically in its
historical significance, the moral and political
are the same. The conversos were Jews who adopted
the outward manifestations
of the Catholic religion. Although some
conversos genuinely changed
their beliefs to satisfy the Catholic rulers,
there were suspected
to be "large numbers of backsliders, pretenders, crypto-Jews,
1992 Page 2
who practiced their Hebraic rites in secret." K.
Sale, The Conquest
of Paradise 373 n.2 (1990). The Inquisition
put great pressure on the conversos,
many of whom were prominent
at the Spanish court, and ultimately a number
of conversos turned
on their own religious brethren and cooperated with the
in forcing all Jews out of Spain in 1492. Id.
Here, the School District is attempting to win converts to the
moral code of
self-sacrificial service. Through the community service
program, the School
District has, with
one stroke, created a small army devoted to such service,
complete with its own draft. In any
given four-year period, this army will render
more than 200,000
hours of forced labor.
Undoubtedly, some students will be
converted to the School District's
moral point of view. What is
however, is that even those who are not converted
will be expected to mouth
agreement with the altruist opinions
underlying the program. Thus, the
Bethlehem Area School District
will have created its own little band of
young students who are intimidated into ignoring
their own moral
judgment in favor of a state-mandated orthodoxy. This would
be an achievement for any governmental agency to be proud of, but
is especially disgraceful emanating from a school district charged
and developing healthy young minds.
TAFOL President Steve Plafker and Board member Tom Bowden, who
together wrote the brief, wish to thank TAFOL members Judy Gedge,
Jeff McCullough, Jeri Eagan, and Mike Mazzone for their research
and other valuable suggestions. In addition, TAFOL members whose
dues offset the costs of filing the brief also deserve thanks.
The Third Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments as early
as August, 1992. Under the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure,
counsel for amici are not normally permitted to participate in
oral argument. The Third Circuit may rule on the issue before the
year is out.
TEXAS MANDATORY PRO BONO UPDATE
Advocates of mandatory pro bono in Texas have appealed the dismissal
of their case to the state's intermediate appeals court. Because
this is an appeal as of right, the appellate court must hear the
appeal. Any further appeal to the Texas Supreme Court will be by
writ of certiorari at the Supreme Court's discretion.
The case was originally filed on March 14, 1991 by several indigents
against the Texas State Bar Association, alleging that each member
of the bar has a duty to provide free legal services to the poor.
TAFOL member Mike Mazzone, aided by TAFOL funds and the volunteer
efforts of TAFOL members, intervened with a 38-page brief offering
a spirited, principled opposition backed by meticulous research.
The current appeal challenges the trial judge's view that he lacked
jurisdiction over all the plaintiffs' claims. Essentially, therefore,
the argument is over which court will hear the merits of the case,
rather than which side should win on the merits. For this reason,
Mazzone filed only a short brief, in which he made reference
to his arguments on the merits made to the trial court.
Oral argument will likely be held this fall, and a decision is
probable this year.
CHANGES IN BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Dee Tagliavia, one of TAFOL's founders, has resigned from the
Board of Directors in order to pursue a Ph.D. degree in economics.
The Board wishes to thank Dee for her invaluable efforts. Tom Bowden
will assume her place on the Board.
Copyright © 1992
The Association for Objective Law. All rights reserved. The Association
for Objective Law is a Missouri non-profit
corporation whose purpose is to advance Objectivism, the philosophy
of Ayn Rand, as the basis of a proper legal system.