443 ABA Journal articles on Virginia.

Advocates are fighting to outlaw adult marriages to minors
Virginia, Texas and New York forbid under-18 marriages, except for emancipated minors. Six more states will consider legislation soon. More than half of all states do not specify a minimum age for marriage.
Prominent lawyers sue white supremacist groups over Charlottesville violence
A group of prominent lawyers have filed a lawsuit against neo-Nazis, white supremacists and hate groups over the August violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
What can we learn from the history of interracial relationships in America? (podcast)
Richard and Mildred Loving did not set out to be civil rights pioneers. But in 1958, police burst into their home and arrested them for violating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. Richard was white, and Mildred was not. They were legally married in Washington, D.C., but that did not protect them in Virginia. After years of living in virtual exile from their home state to avoid prison time, the Lovings looked to the courts for relief. And 50 years ago this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court granted that relief in Loving v. Virginia, striking down Virginia's law against interracial marriage and declaring that the freedom to marry is "one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."

Former law student says he recanted racial profiling claim because of FBI pressure

A former University of Virginia law student says he recanted a claim that he had been racially profiled by university police officers in 2011 because he was pressured during…

10 Questions: James Dunstan
James E. Dunstan, the principal of Springfield, Virginia-based Mobius Legal Group, has spent more than 30 years specializing in space law.
Man fires gun and kills himself at law firm that represented his ex-wife

A gunman on Wednesday approached the office of a Virginia law firm that represented his ex-wife, firing his gun several times and then killing himself.

The gunman was identified as…

2nd Circuit reinstates fraternity members’ defamation suit against Rolling Stone

A federal appeals court has ruled that two of three University of Virginia fraternity members who sued Rolling Stone magazine over a retracted article about a gang rape can…

National Pulse: Stifling Speech

Government officials removed a high school student’s painting from the U.S. Capitol building earlier this year, contending that its message was anti-police and inappropriate. The student and his congressional representative objected, arguing that the government engaged in impermissible viewpoint discrimination by censoring the artwork.

The government countered that removing the painting, submitted in a congressional art competition, was its prerogative under the government speech doctrine.

The controversy raised an important question: Did the government violate the First Amendment by censoring private speech, or was it engaged in government speech? Over the last two decades, the Supreme Court has expanded the government speech doctrine, and more officials have asserted it as a defense in free speech cases.

“The government speech doctrine has the ability to swallow much of the Constitution’s protection for freedom of speech,” says constitutional law expert Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at Berkeley law school and an ABA Journal contributor. “The Supreme Court has said that when the government is the speaker—or when the government adopts private speech as its own—the First Amendment does not apply.”

Whose speech is it?

Many trace the doctrine to a 1991 government funding case, Rust v. Sullivan, even though the court didn’t use the term government speech. The court narrowly upheld a federal regulation that prohibited doctors who received federal funds for family planning services from discussing with patients the option of abortion. Critics termed it the “abortion gag rule,” but the court upheld the regulation, writing that the government can “selectively fund a program to encourage certain activities it believes to be in the public interest, without at the same time funding an alternate program which seeks to deal with the problem in another way.”

Since then, the government speech doctrine has become more of a force in First Amendment law, thanks to Supreme Court decisions.

In Pleasant Grove v. City of Summum (2009), the court reasoned that a Utah city could decline to post a religious monument that listed the seven aphorisms of Summum in a public park, even though the park already had a Ten Commandments monument. The reason: Monuments in public parks were a form of government speech.

More controversially, a divided court ruled 5-4 in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans (2015) that the state of Texas could refuse to approve a specialty license plate with a depiction of the Confederate battle flag. The majority reasoned that specialty plates are a form of government identification and communicate messages from the state. “Indeed, a person who displays a message on a Texas license plate likely intends to convey to the public that the state has endorsed that message,” wrote Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

“The Walker decision probably helped further educate governmental bodies—as well as lower courts—about the role of the government speech doctrine as a potential defense to First Amendment challenges by private individuals who seek to join or alter or silence what the government believes is its own expression,” says Helen Norton, a University of Colorado law professor and associate dean, who has written extensively about the doctrine.

Chemerinsky says governmental officials are “much more frequently claiming the government speech defense since Walker.

Recent decisions

The case of the artwork removed from the Capitol is one high-profile example. David Pulphus of St. Louis had his painting selected by a panel of local artists and, ultimately, by U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, for display in the Cannon tunnel, which is part of the Capitol grounds.

Pulphus’ painting depicts a protest, including police officers with piglike heads, and a black man crucified on the scales of justice. The painting was intended to convey social injustice, including events in Ferguson, Missouri, and was displayed for months without incident. It was later removed by members of Congress for its anti-police content.

Pulphus and Clay filed a federal lawsuit, contending the removal was a form of impermissible viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. However, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled in Pulphus v. Ayers on April 14 that the art competition was a form of government speech.

Sisters whose vehicle was hit at Charlottesville rally file $3 million lawsuit

Two sisters who claim they were injured in their vehicle when a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters during Saturday’s violence at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia have filed…

Trump’s lawyer forwards email that ‘validates’ president’s stance on Charlottesville
An email forwarded by President Donald Trump's personal lawyer stated that there’s no difference between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and George Washington, and that the protest group Black Lives Matter has been infiltrated by terrorist organizations.
Attorney appointed to represent driver at Charlottesville rally is plaintiff in suit against city

A lawyer appointed to represent a man facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of a counterprotester during a rally of white nationalists and similar groups on Saturday in…

Can employees like those who took part in Charlottesville rally be fired?

Do protesters who appear in photographs and are affiliated with white nationalist and similar groups have job protections in spite of the potential issues they may bring? The issue is…

ABA President Klein decries violence at Charlottesville rally
The U.S. Constitution protects free speech, not violence against others, Linda Klein, president of the American Bar Association, said in a statement released Sunday, one day after a rally held by white nationalists and similar groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and left a paralegal dead and more than 30 injured.
Ex-con and Yale Law grad must prove ‘good moral character’ before being able to practice

A former convict who has graduated from Yale Law School and is an acclaimed author and poet now must prove his “good moral character” to Connecticut officials before he can…

Condemned to death—and solitary confinement

Arizona death row inmate Scott Nordstrom lives alone in a room smaller than a parking space. He’s allowed to leave his cell a few times each week to shower or…

Read more ...

Digital Dangers logo with thumbprint lock.
Cybersecurity and the law
A guide for practitioners ...


More podcasts ...

Defending Justice shield logo.
Essays on judicial independence
A new online series ...

Your Voice

Articles and commentary ...