Laura Weinrib, "Free Speech When Constitutionalism Was Unpopular"

In the mid-1930s, the future of judicial review was uncertain.  Politicians, social activists, and even legal academics denounced the federal judiciary’s hostility toward New Deal legislation as a threat to democratic progress and economicrecovery.  In the face of President Roosevelt’s “court-packing plan” and competing proposals to curb judicial power, conservative lawyers sought strategies for restoring popular faith in the federal courts.  Their solution, Professor Weinrib will argue, was to embrace a cause they had long denounced as a front for radical activity: the judicial protection of free speech. Afterdecades of heated clashes, the American Bar Association joined forces with its long-time adversary, the American Civil Liberties Union, to celebrate the First Amendment. In a self-conscious attempt to improve its public image, it recast the federal judiciary as a defender of personal liberties as well as economic rights.  The new civil liberties consensus produced an unprecedented but durable commitment to a constitutional and counter-majoritarian theory of free speech. Laura Weinrib is Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. This Chicago's Best Ideas talk was recorded on November 7, 2012.

Participating faculty: 
Laura Weinrib