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ASU Law establishes First Amendment clinic with gift from Stanton Foundation

December 13, 2017

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is establishing a legal clinic focused on First Amendment protections, thanks to a nearly $1 million gift from the Stanton Foundation, a private organization established by longtime CBS president Frank Stanton.

Launching in fall 2018, the First Amendment Legal Clinic will be led by ASU Law faculty member Professor James Weinstein, the Dan Cracchiolo chair in Constitutional Law, noted free-speech author and litigator of several significant free speech cases on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. Weinstein will work with a full-time fellow, who will handle the clinic’s day-to-day operations, and a team of second- and third-year law students.

“ASU Law is dedicated to community service, and we are grateful for this gift from the Stanton Foundation, allowing us to continue supporting citizens and educating our students about the importance of civic engagement,” said Douglas Sylvester, dean of ASU Law. “As retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has expressed, we believe that clinical courses should be an integral part of a balanced education.”

The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Although the amendment also addresses free exercise and establishment of religion, the clinic will not pursue religion-oriented cases. Instead, it will focus on local and regional issues involving free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.

The clinic’s mission will be to:

• provide a resource for organizations, students, journalists and citizens defending and advancing First Amendment issues
• support freedom of expression and civic engagement by enhancing law students’ understanding of the First Amendment 
• produce law school graduates who, as practitioners and members of their communities, will exercise leadership in support of First Amendment values

Stanton, who served as the president of CBS from 1946 to 1971, was a fierce advocate of free speech and organized the first televised presidential debate, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. He died in 2006 at age 98. The Stanton Foundation was founded in 2009 to continue his philanthropic work. The foundation is thrilled to be launching the clinic with ASU as part of that mission.

Stanton was a longtime colleague and friend of CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, for whom ASU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is named, and was one of the original recipients of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. Part of the clinic’s mission will be to reach out to community TV and radio stations, local newspapers, digital media outlets and universities to assist with First Amendment cases.

“We believe there is potential for us to work with our Cronkite colleagues in several ways to support the mission of the clinic,” Sylvester said.

About the Stanton Foundation

The Stanton Foundation was created by Frank Stanton, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest executives in the history of electronic communications and one of the television industry’s founding fathers.

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