This Essay analyzes key First Amendment issues surrounding Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos speaking on public university campuses. Some institutions have flatly banned Spencer, citing fears of incitement to violence but also sparking federal lawsuits. Other schools have permitted Spencer to speak, but at massive security costs, in an attempt to prevent a so-called heckler’s veto. This Essay examines the tension between providing a public platform for controversial speakers and the costs associated with doing so, including the relevance of the Supreme Court’s aging incitement test created in Brandenburg v. Ohio. It also questions the Court’s 1992 ruling in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement restricting governmental entities’ ability to shift escalating security fees to speakers based on fears of violence.
“I just killed my two kids. . . . I drowned them. . . . They are 2 and 4. . . . I just shot myself. . . . with a gun. . . . Please hurry.”
That was the dying declaration of 21-year-old Julia Murray on February 16, 2010, preserved for all of posterity on a 911 emergency telephone recording and available to anyone and everyone in Florida—from journalists and police to even voyeurs and perverts—under that state’s open records laws. Murray and one of her three children are gone (the second child survived the drowning attempt), but her words remain. Should the public have a right to hear them?
In 2010, multiple events magnified public focus on the escalating tension between family members’ privacy rights with respect to the death-scene images and dying words of their loved ones, on the one hand, and the public’s right to access those documents, on the other.