Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan said the high court should be focused on ferreting out improper governmental motives when deciding First Amendment cases, arguing that the government’s reasons for restricting free speech were what mattered most and not necessarily the effect of those restrictions on speech.
Kagan, the solicitor general of the United States under President Obama, expressed that idea in her 1996 article in the University of Chicago Law Review entitled, “Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine.”
In her article, Kagan said that examination of the motives of government is the proper approach for the Supreme Court when looking at whether a law violates the First Amendment. While not denying that other concerns, such as the impact of a law, can be taken into account, Kagan argued that governmental motive is “the most important” factor.
In doing so, Kagan constructed a complex framework that can be used by the Court to determine whether or not Congress has restricted First Amendment freedoms with improper intent.
She defined improper intent as prohibiting or restricting speech merely because Congress or a public majority dislikes either the message or the messenger, or because the message or messenger may be harmful to elected officials or their political priorities.
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