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First Amendment Review: Public Forum and Government Speech

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 90 minutes
Recorded Date: October 17, 2017
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  • Government Speech Doctrine
  • Public Forum Doctrine
    • Individual speech on public property
    • Mass demonstrations, protests and parades

    Runtime: 1 hour and 30 minutes
    Recorded: October 17, 2017


This seminar will review the roots of the public forum doctrine, the classifications of public property under the public forum doctrine, and how the government speech doctrine applies in practice.

Recent political events and movements have reminded us that, despite the advent of the Internet and social media, much political discourse still occurs on government property. As a result, local governments' regulation of streets, sidewalks, parks, public buildings, and other public spaces frequently come under scrutiny for potential First Amendment violations. Regulation of speech and religious exercise on government property has, for the past several decades, been reviewed by courts under the public forum doctrine. Since 2009, however, the government speech doctrine has permeated this case law and has provided special First Amendment protection for governmental entities.

This program was recorded on October 17th, 2017.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Kevin O'Neil

Associate Professor
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

Kevin Francis O’Neill is an Associate Professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, where he teaches First Amendment, Evidence, Civil Procedure, and Pretrial Practice. Mr. O’Neill joined the full-time faculty in August 1996 after a year-long stint there as a visiting professor. His scholarship focuses on the Speech Clause of the First Amendment, with particular emphasis on public protest and forum access issues. He is the co-author (with Howard E. Katz) of Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching (Aspen 2009), now in its sixth printing.

Prior to entering academia, Mr. O’Neill served four years (1991 to 1995) as the Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. He was responsible for supervising all ACLU litigation in the state of Ohio and trying selected cases himself. During his tenure at the ACLU, Mr. O’Neill focused special attention on First Amendment issues, reproductive freedom, police misconduct, and government mistreatment of the homeless. After leaving the ACLU for academia, he continued to serve as an ACLU volunteer attorney on First Amendment cases. Acting in that capacity, he negotiated a settlement in September 2001 that restored to Ohio Death Row inmates the traditional privilege to deliver a last dying speech.

Prior to joining the ACLU in May 1991, Mr. O’Neill was a trial lawyer at the national law firms of Smith & Schnacke (now Thompson, Hine & Flory) and Arter & Hadden (now Tucker, Ellis & West). During his seven years in commercial litigation, Mr. O’Neill represented clients from a broad range of locales, including California and Saudi Arabia. His work has spanned all phases of trial and appellate practice, including cases decided by the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts.

Mr. O’Neill obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State University in 1977. In the years following his graduation, he worked on the editorial staff of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, where he wrote a column on consumer affairs. He returned to Cleveland (his home town) in 1981 to attend law school at Case Western Reserve University, obtaining his law degree in 1984.

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Tom Macdonald

Otten Johnson Robinson Neff & Ragonetti, P.C.

Tom Macdonald has substantial experience across a broad spectrum of transactional real estate, and real estate and land use litigation, with three distinct specialties: (1) real estate transactions, (2) workouts, foreclosures and bankruptcy, and (3) land use and constitutional litigation. Tom represents commercial lenders with a particular emphasis on loan foreclosures, workouts, bankruptcies and mechanics’ lien litigation. In addition, Tom represents clients in all types of real estate transactions. In the litigation context, Tom represents clients in complex litigation involving land use and governmental regulation.

Tom is also well known for his expertise in land use and Constitutional litigation matters. He is routinely called upon to assist with cases that involve due process and other facets of Constitutional law.

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Jerry Hicks

Supervising Deputy City Attorney
Sacramento City Attorney's Office

Mr. Hicks has served the Sacramento City Attorney’s Office since February 1998.

He was promoted in 2010 from Deputy City Attorney to the position of Supervising Deputy City Attorney and is currently assigned as the supervisor for the Advisory section.

Mr. Hicks worked in the private sector from 1990 until 1998 when he joined the Sacramento City Attorney’s Office. He has made presentations before the League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties on various topics including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the First Amendment.

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Ashley N. Scott

Assistant City Attorney
City of Atlanta Attorney's Office

Ashley N. Scott is the Assistant City Attorney in Atlanta.

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Brian J. Connolly

Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti PC

Brian Connolly represents public- and private-sector clients in matters relating to zoning, planning, development entitlements and other complex regulatory issues.

Brian’s practice encompasses a broad range of land use matters including zoning compliance, rezonings and other regulatory amendments, planned-unit developments, development agreements, private covenants and restrictions, land use and zoning litigation, initiatives and referenda associated with land use approvals, and real estate transactions. Brian has received national recognition for his work on First Amendment issues associated with local government regulation, including signs and outdoor advertising, and his work on fair housing matters in local planning and zoning, particularly in the area of housing for people with disabilities.

Prior to practicing law, Brian was an urban planner in the planning department of Westchester County, New York. Brian also worked in planning capacities at the federal and municipal government levels.

Brian writes and speaks on land use law topics nationally and regionally, and is active in professional organizations. Brian has served as the editor or co-author of three books, including Local Government, Land Use, and the First Amendment: Protecting Free Speech and Expression (ABA Publishing 2017) and Group Homes: Strategies for Effective and Defensible Planning and Regulation (ABA Publishing 2014), addressing the planning and local zoning issues associated with group homes for people with disabilities. Brian serves on the advisory board of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, and is the elected Secretary-Treasurer of the American Planning Association’s Planning and Law Division.

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