Free Speech tested last week

Dear Readers,

It is rare in my world of bookselling that an event causes a Constitutional examination.  A few weeks ago, we got to witness our Constitution being tested when the President tried to stop the release of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. As an attorney, I am always fascinated by these types of events from a non-political viewpoint. Regardless of what the text says, I thought it may be interesting to look at the series of events from a Constitutional perspective.

Our trade magazine, Publishers Weekly, published the letter that the President of Macmillan wrote to his employees explaining the company’s position when it responded to the President’s Cease and desist demand letter.  I am proud of our Constitution and strongly believe that every time it is tested, we always come out the other side as a better Country. Here are the a few of the Constitutional opinions that he shared:

…This is very clearly defined in Supreme Court case law, most prominently in the Pentagon Papers case. As Justice Hugo Black explained in his concurrence: “Both the history and language of the First Amendment support the view that the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions, or prior restraints. In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.”

Then there is Justice William Brennan’s opinion in The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan:

“Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

And finally, Chief Justice Warren Burger in another landmark case:

“The thread running through all these cases is that prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

If you would like to read the entire letter, we have uploaded it on our website and can be found by clicking here.