- Elgar Law and Entrepreneurship series
Chapter 11: The bigger picture: obscenity, the First Amendment and the moral education of the young
When I was a law student in the fall of 1977, I took a class in Constitutional Issues Before the Supreme Court, taught by former US Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. In this small seminar-style class, students read cases pending before the Supreme Court that term, and presented mock oral argument on behalf of one of the parties. Justice Goldberg sat as Chief Justice, and the rest of the class offered commentary. Justice Goldberg chose which cases would be argued by each student. He assigned me to present, on behalf of the National Socialist Party, the argument that this group, which was the American version of the Nazi party, should be allowed the right to conduct a political march through the neighborhood of the village of Skokie, Illinois, to promote their anti-Semitic viewpoints. Skokie had a large population of elderly Jewish residents, many of whom were survivors of the Holocaust in Germany during World War II. I am certain that Justice Goldberg knew I was of the Jewish faith, and that he purposely assigned this case to me to help me learn that one of the purposes of the First Amendment is to protect speech that we may personally find distasteful, even repugnant. Lesson learned.
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