The Coverage/Protection Distinction in the Law of Freedom of Speech – An Essay on Meta-Doctrine in Constitutional Law

61 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2016 Last revised: 7 Jun 2016

Date Written: April 26, 2016

Abstract

The distinction between the First Amendment’s coverage – those human activities the regulation of which is evaluated by invoking the First Amendment – and the protection it affords – the conditions under which a regulation violates the First Amendment – has been an important component of the Amendment’s doctrinal architecture. Recent Supreme Court decisions place significant pressure on the coverage/protection distinction. This Essay examines those cases and the ways in which intuitively attractive results might be precluded by abandoning the distinction. Salvaging those results is possible, but only by deploying analytical moves that run athwart a constitutional “meta-doctrine,” which I call the “too much work” principle. In addition to contributing to understanding the coverage/protection distinction and the Court’s recent decisions, the Essay explains the role that meta-doctrines play in constitutional architecture more generally.

Keywords: First Amendment, Reed v. Gilbert

Suggested Citation

Tushnet, Mark V., The Coverage/Protection Distinction in the Law of Freedom of Speech – An Essay on Meta-Doctrine in Constitutional Law (April 26, 2016). Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 16-26, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2770774 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2770774

Mark V. Tushnet (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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