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Professor Vincent Blasi

First Amendment Law: A New Case Book and a Novel Approach
Vincent Blasi (Thomson/West, 2006)

In his 25 years of teaching, Prof. Blasi discovered that the casebooks he'd been using presented a wealth of modern opinions, but were heavily edited due to space constraints.

"This led to a breathless pace of coverage, which precluded a rigorous critique of the basic doctrinal ideas," he says. "Given the rich rhetoric surrounding the idea of free speech, I yearned to do more to teach the art of persuasion in a systematic fashion."

Fourteen years ago, he began organizing course materials around what he viewed as seven of the most powerfully written and historically important articulations of the case for free speech. These included John Milton's Areopagitica, James Madison's Virginia Report (in opposition to the Sedition Act of 1798), Alexander Meiklejohn's Free Speech and Its Relation to Self-Government, and Learned Hand's opinion in Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten. This innovation allowed Prof. Blasi to devote up to two weeks to dissecting the argumentative and rhetorical structure of each essay and ask how they might be used to analyze the important modern issues of First Amendment interpretation, including the publication of classified documents and campaign finance regulation.

The result was an increase in student engagement and in the sophistication of class discussion and writing.

Several students have said that Prof. Blasi's book turned out to be one of the most practical they had in law school.