NATO Summit Q&A with David Franklin '97

From My Chicago News:

It’s no secret: Several free speech and First Amendment issues will be at stake with the NATO summit being held in Chicago May 20-21 at McCormick Place.

David Franklin, vice dean of DePaul University’s College of Law, said that both summit protestors and public safety officials need to be aware of their rights, particularly as it pertains to the First Amendment.

Franklin is a constitutional scholar and former law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University and received his law degree from the University of Chicago. 

His writings have been published in the Yale Law Journal, Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post. In addition to serving as vice dean, he also teaches Conflict of Laws and Constitutional Process. 

In this Q&A, Franklin clarified the restrictions the government may place on protests, how to determine if these restrictions can be deemed unconstitutional, and what government officials and protestors should know prior to summit.

Q. In regard to the First Amendment, can you explain how or why the government is able to place restrictions on our freedom of speech or assembly?

A. The First Amendment says there should be no law abridging the freedom of speech, what it really means is that the government is not allowed to restrict speech because it is afraid of, or concerned about, or opposes the message of the speech. The government is allowed to restrict speech on neutral, non-content based grounds. For example it’s OK for the government to say no loudspeakers after midnight, particularly in residential neighborhoods, because the desire to restrict noise because whatever noise it may be is a content neutral interest.

Q.  Can you tell us about chilling speech and what that means in regards to protesting?

A.  The concept of chilling speech is quite important in the area of the First Amendment. The idea of chilling speech would come into play when you have a law that has vague or ambiguous terms. That could apply to an act of speech or expression. When you have a person who wants to engage in an act or expression but they look at the law and think, “Gosh I don’t know whether my speech or expression is going to subject me to possible penalties, maybe criminal penalties.” So in the interest of playing it safe he or she will censor themselves. That’s a situation where a person who engages in self-censorship has been chilled, and been chilled by a law that’s more vague than it should be.

Read the rest of the Q & A here.