Every seat was filled at Wednesday’s 2016 Constitution Day Panel, with students eager to learn about serious First Amendment issues regarding the future of our country.
The panel, held in Psychology 150, was hosted by Cal State Long Beach’s Center for First Amendment Studies.
Constitution Day is an annual event dedicated to educating students and the public about the First Amendment and the impact of new technologies and media.
“We are living in an age of constitutional significance, we are living in global historic levels of unrest and of distrust in presidential candidates,” said moderator Christopher Duerringer, research director at the Center for First Amendment Studies.
Panelist Kevin Johnson, one of three speakers for the evening and director for the Center for First Amendment studies at CSULB, spoke about Donald Trump’s current battle with the First Amendment.
“Donald Trump wants to open up libel laws to make it easier to sue media and win lots of money,” Johnson said.
He explained that the type of lawsuits Trump uses, called strategic lawsuit against public participation, are intended to censor and intimidate one’s critics by burdening them with legal fees that they most likely can’t afford.
Chris Karadjov, Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, spoke about online media and free speech issues.
He said that in this digital age, anyone can be a journalist; anyone can publish online, giving rise to legal issues such as shield laws.
Shield laws – which protect journalists from revealing confidential information, such as sources – are a problem because there is legal confusion on who exactly is protected under the law. According to Karadjov, there are courts that agree that traditional media and nontraditional media such as blogging platforms are seen the same as any legitimate publication under the law
“Let’s not confuse new media and news media,” Karadjov said.
Jason Whitehead, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, spoke about what he thinks is the most important issue facing Americans today: Supreme Court Justices and their relation with the Constitution.
Justices in the U.S. Supreme court are appointed by the president and approved by the U.S. Senate. Due to the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, there is a vacant seat on the bench.
“Right now we have a divided government, a Democratic president and a Republican Senate that refuse to appoint President Obama’s choice,” said Whitehead.
Whitehead explained that this is a crucial time for the future of the U.S. because right now there are four conservative judges and four liberal judges.
The next appointed judge’s way of thinking and voting will decide on major historic cases that hold potential change the way people in the U.S. live.
Jasmine Sim, a sophomore communications major, said that most important thing she took away from the lecture was how to critically analyze the presidential candidates.
“Rather than look at their ideologies [I will] look at their values and backgrounds,” she said, “that’s how they will vote and decide over things.”