Free Speech: a view from the bench
Judge pondering the 1st Amendment

In honor of Law Day 2019, let’s take a look at the guarantees of free speech and a free press found in the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Who decides what is protected?

Judges are responsible for deciding what is protected by the U.S. Constitution and whether someone’s constitutional rights have been violated. That doesn’t mean judges create law. Instead, they start by reading the text of the Constitution and look to precedent for guidance. Precedent is what other courts have done in similar situations and the best place to look for precedent about the Constitution is the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the highest Court in our country. Click the thought clouds below to find out how our U.S. Supreme Court protects different kinds of free speech.

Judge considering the 1st amendment.

Can the government stop you from saying or publishing certain things before you say them?

If I accidentally say something about a politician that’s not true, can I get in trouble?

Does freedom of speech protect more than just what I say?

LAW DAY 2019

Law Day is the annual celebration of the rule of law designated by Congress to occur each May 1st. Each year, the American Bar Association sets a theme. Learn more about this year’s theme “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society” by watching this ABA Law Day video and by visiting

Houston Bar Association Poster and Essay Contest on Display

The Houston Bar Association Law Week Committee regularly plans activities throughout the city to celebrate the Law Day theme for an entire week. For the 2019 Law Day remembrance, activities included a poster contest for local K-12 students and an essay contest for high school students focused on the importance of Free Speech and Free Press in our Free Society. Several of the posters and the first place essay are on display at the Law Library and photos are available here.