Judge Lynn Adelman

  • January 12, 2018
    Guest Post
    by Lynn Adelman, District Court Judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin 

    It is a little-known and disturbing fact that the Supreme Court is in the process of gutting what may be the most important civil rights statute Congress has ever passed. It is particularly distressing that the harm is being done by a largely unanimous court—and that, other than a few legal scholars, no one seems to be paying any attention.

    The statute in question is Section 1983 of the United States Code, which was enacted in 1871 as part of Reconstruction. Section 1983 enables people to bring suits in federal court to enforce the rights created by the Fourteenth Amendment—which, among other things, prohibits state officials from depriving persons of due process and equal protection of the law. The law was designed to provide a federal remedy against officials who violated the rights of the newly freed slaves or who stood by while others, like the Ku Klux Klan, did so. Specifically, it authorizes individuals to sue in federal court “any person who under color of law” violates their constitutional rights. The purposes of the law are to compensate persons whose constitutional rights have been violated and to deter future violations. Actions brought under Section 1983 are known as constitutional tort suits.

  • July 8, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Judge Lynn Adelman and Jon Dietrich, authors of a recent article for the Harvard Law & Policy Review
    In the latest issue of the Harvard Law & Policy Review, we published Extremist Speech and the Internet: The Continuing Importance of Brandenburg. Our article, is essentially an ode to the 1969 decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, which imposed a very high bar for the regulation of potentially dangerous speech. We respond to arguments that First Amendment doctrine is insufficiently flexible to deal with extremist and hate speech conveyed on the internet. We argue that Brandenburg's speech-friendly formulation has served us well and is entirely adequate to deal with internet communication. In particular, Brandeburg prohibits punishment for the advocacy of the use of force or violation of the law except when "such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

    We point out that the internet is a typical example of how technological advances in communication have caused people to become uneasy about broad protections for speech. This goes back to the invention of the printing press. We argue that there is nothing about the transmission of information via the internet which requires that weakening of the robust protection of speech afforded by Brandenburg. We discuss cases in which the Brandenburg standard has protected internet speech, and we show on a more general level how Brandenburg's distinction between advocacy and speech clearly likely to lead to imminent harm has benefitted our society.