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Justice Souter on Government Speech

20 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2011  

Sheldon H. Nahmod

Chicago-Kent College of Law - Illinois Institute of Technology

Date Written: March 25, 2011


Justice David Souter, who replaced Justice William Brennan, was seated on October 3, 1990, and retired on June 29, 2009. As it turns out, Justice Souter’s tenure coincided exactly with the birth and development of the government speech doctrine in the Supreme Court. Rust v. Sullivan was handed down in 1991, and the most recent case, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, was handed down in 2009.

This Article is modest in scope and primarily descriptive. I propose to address each of the nine Supreme Court decisions in which government speech is discussed either by the Court or by Justice Souter, with an emphasis on Justice Souter’s often differing and cautionary observations about the doctrine. I do not engage here at a normative level with the government speech doctrine, even though I am worried about the Court’s increasing use of the doctrine to avoid difficult First Amendment issues.

Keywords: Justice Souter, Government Speech, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Nahmod, Sheldon H., Justice Souter on Government Speech (March 25, 2011). Brigham Young University Law Review, Vol. 2010, p. 2097, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Sheldon H. Nahmod (Contact Author)

Chicago-Kent College of Law - Illinois Institute of Technology ( email )

565 W. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661-3691
United States

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