University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor RonNell Andersen Jones spoke about trends in the U.S. Supreme Court’s characterizations of the press at “Free Speech in the 21st Century,” a virtual conference organized by the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) on July 3 and 4. The event featured leading constitutional experts from around the globe whose work focuses on freedoms of press, speech, and expression.
Andersen Jones presented data from a work in progress co-authored with Sonja R. West from the University of Georgia, exploring the ways that Justices of the Supreme Court have depicted the media over time. The project, which coded every reference to the press from 1784 to present, shows that the judiciary’s view of the press is waning across a number of measures. Andersen Jones reported that the Court today is much less likely to depict the press as a helpful, accountability-enhancing watchdog and much more likely to depict it as being dishonest, unethical, or having a negative impact on people.
The conference, which was to have been held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, was moved online by COVID-19 and was one of the year’s largest virtual conferences on law. It featured 52 presenters and discussants from 28 countries, including many of the world’s most prominent writers and thinkers on speech and press issues. Participants included Oxford Law Professor Jacob Rowbottom; David Erdos of Cambridge; Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet; Neil Richards of Washington University in St. Louis; András Sajó, a member of Facebook’s Oversight Board; and University of Tokyo Professor Itsuko Yamaguchi.
The International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) is an international academic association that focuses on developing constitutional law. It provides a forum in which constitutionalists from all over the world can research each other’s systems, reflect on their own, and engage in fruitful comparisons.