Genevieve Lakier Honored with a Second Stonecipher Award

Genevieve Lakier

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication will honor Professor Genevieve Lakier with the 2021 Harry W. Stonecipher Award for Distinguished Research in Media Law and Policy for “The First Amendment’s Real Lochner Problem,” an article she published last summer in the University of Chicago Law Review. This will be Lakier’s second Stonecipher Award; she received her first in 2016 for “The Invention of Low-Value Speech.”

“The First Amendment’s Real Lochner Problem” examines claims that the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence grants too much protection to commercially-oriented speech and expression. She challenges common critiques built around the idea that the Court has resurrected its mistakes in Lochner v. New York (1905) by granting judges too much power to second-guess the economic policy decisions of democratically elected legislatures.

Instead, she argues that the Court repeats Lochner errors in a different way—by relying upon an almost wholly negative notion of freedom of speech and by assuming that the only relevant constitutional interest at stake in free speech cases is the autonomy interest of the speaker.”

The problem, she continues, “will only be solved by reconceiving freedom of speech as a positive rather than a negative right and one that guarantees, to listeners as well as speakers, the right to participate in a public sphere that is diverse along both racial and class lines.”

This approach will create difficult questions in light of longstanding case law, she concedes, adding that, “there is ultimately no other way to vindicate the democratic values the First Amendment is intended to protect.”

“I feel very grateful to receive the Stonecipher Award for the second time,” Lakier said. “The paper is part of a long-term project to rethink how we understand and protect freedom of speech. I am very happy to know that it has struck a chord with other media and communications scholars.”

Judges were inspired by the speech-enhancing potential of Lakier’s approach, “especially as it foregrounds the interests of less powerful speakers,” the association said in a news release. The judges also praised her mastery of a large body of Supreme Court jurisprudence.

Lakier, who has a PhD in anthropology as well as a JD and a master’s degree in cultural anthropology, joined the Law School’s faculty as an assistant professor in 2015 after completing a Bigelow Teaching Fellowship. Her research focuses on the intersection between culture and law.

The Stonecipher Award, which carries a cash prize, will be conferred during the business meeting of the Law Division at the association’s annual convention on August 6. The award honors the legacy of Harry W. Stonecipher, who died in 2004. Stonecipher was an acclaimed First Amendment educator who nurtured a number of distinguished scholars during his 15-year career at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, beginning in 1969.

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