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Advocating for the Rule of Law

Advocating for the Rule of Law

Advocating for the Rule of Law_675

The basic precepts of the Rule of Law have increasingly come under attack, weakening basic constitutional structural features such as checks and balances, separation of powers, and an independent judiciary. This CLE program inspires and empowers lawyers, teachers, journalists, denizens of social media, and all citizens to become better advocates for democracy, with a focus on shoring up a free press, ensuring fair elections, and elevating rule-of-law teachings in our civics education classes.


The Press, Social Media, and the Rule of Law

The importance of a free press as a force for checks and balances has been noted since the founding of the Republic. As Thomas Jefferson said, if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” The media has come under fire for providing this important rule of law function in recent years, and journalists have come under physical as well as verbal attack, both at home and abroad.

At the same time, a once-obscure law known as Section 230 has become ground zero in the culture wars, with conservatives claiming that they are being silenced by Big Tech while liberals are outraged that social-media disinformation campaigns have fueled conspiracy theories and the January 6 insurrection in Washington. Both sides are convinced that the problems stem from Section 230, which broadly immunizes social media platforms and websites from liability for third-party content. Do we need to resurrect a government-imposed "fairness doctrine" for the major platforms, much as broadcasting was once regulated? Should they be required to police disinformation, hate speech, and other toxic content posted by users? And where does the First Amendment fit into the debate?

Traditional broadcast media, meanwhile, were freed from the fairness doctrine in 1987, leading to widely decried information silos and the complete absence of agreement on a common set of facts, even in the face of a global pandemic that requires consensus to avoid human suffering and damage to our democracy.

This program will discuss:

●  The role of the press in living up to our nation’s Rule of Law aspirations

●  The state of the law applicable to media;

● Alternatives under discussion for modifying CDA Section 230;

●  Whether a different jurisprudential approach to the First Amendment should be advanced; and

●  Measures lawyers and the public at large can take to advocate for a greater role on the part of media and social media companies for protecting the rule of law.

Keynote remarks by Secretary Jeh C. Johnson, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

Educating for American Democracy

The Rule of Law is often viewed as the province of lawyers and judges. In truth, the functioning of a democratic society depends on broad understanding and acceptance of its precepts. This panel explores how school children can receive these lessons, giving them a personal familiarity and stake in the Rule of Law.

The Rule of Law depends on the evenhanded application of well-publicized laws to a citizenry to whom they are responsible – a citizenry actively engaged in making those laws. The Rule of Law also depends on independent judges and law enforcement, who interpret the law and provide the necessary check against governmental overreaching, unjust laws and unlawful behavior. Together, an engaged and well-informed citizenry provides the basis for the future of our democracy.

This panel, chaired by the Hon. Robert A. Katzmann, one of the most notable and innovative proponents of civics education on the federal bench, will explore the role and status of Rule-of-Law teaching in civics education, and will discuss current and future efforts to raise the visibility and importance of Rule of Law teaching in civics education programs. Teaching these lessons universally at the K-12 levels – in curricula as well as co-curricular and extra-curricular activities – will promote a vital democracy, equity, and opportunity. 

Free and Fair Elections, Gerrymandering and the Rule of Law

Our panelists will offer their perspectives on doctrinal and policy developments in access to free and fair elections in the run-up and aftermath of the 2020 election. The panelists will address:

●    The racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement efforts currently underway in many states

●    The redistricting landscape in the first post-Shelby County redistricting cycle and the implications of the 2020 census on redistricting

●    Recent voting rights jurisprudence and the future of vote denial claims in the context of the expected decision in Brnovich v. DNC argued before the Supreme Court in March 2021

●    Policy solutions that are currently pending, including the For the People Act (H.R. 1), John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 4), and policy changes at the state level like state Voting Rights Acts


Secretary Jeh C. Johnson, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

David E. McCraw, Esq., Senior Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, The New York Times

Jameel Jaffer, Esq., Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

Hon. Victor Marreo, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Dr. Kate Klonick, J.D., St. John’s University School of Law

Dr. Olivier Sylvain, J.D., Fordham University School of Law

Myrna Pérez, Director, Voting Rights & Elections, Brennan Center for Justice

Christopher R. Riano, Esq., President, Center for Civic Education

Dale Ho, Esq., Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project

Debra Lesser, Esq., Executive Director, Justice Resource Center

Hon. John M. Walker, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Michael J. Pernick, Esq., Redistricting Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

Ted Shaw, Esq., Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at UNC School of Law; former Director-Counsel and President of NAACP LDF (2004-2008)

Planning Co-Chair: Ignatius A. Grande, Esq., Vice Chair, NYSBA Commercial & Federal Litigation Section

Planning Co-Chair: Lesley Rosenthal, Esq., President, New York Bar Foundation

Speaker: Hon. Victor Marrero, Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Section Member Price: $60.00 Join (or renew) for special member pricing
Non-Member Price: $125.00
Published Date:
  • June 3, 2021
  • Online On-Demand
Product Code:
  • VKS81
Areas Of Professional Practice Credit(s):
  • 3.0
Total Credit(s):
  • 3.0