BEYOND THE BURNING CROSS

THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE LANDMARK R.A.V. CASE

An honorable but flat how-I-won-that-case account, by Minnesota defender Cleary. On June 21, 1990, a 17-year-old ``rebel without a clue'' lit a small burning cross on the front lawn of a black family's home in St. Paul, Minn. The youth, whose initials were R.A.V., was indicted under St. Paul's new ``hate speech'' ordinance, which banned any symbol, such as burning crosses and swastikas, that ``arouse[d] anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender.'' Cleary, a private lawyer who regularly represented indigent clients (including, he is quick to point out, blacks), was dispatched by the county public defender's office to represent the young skinhead. He found his client's act repugnant; nevertheless, he immediately recognized that the hate- speech ordinance targeted ``the expression or viewpoint itself, including expression that was neither threatening nor terrorizing but simply upsetting''—or simply unpopular. Punish my client, he argued, but punish his conduct (under felony ``terroristic threats'' laws), not his speech. The Minnesota Supreme Court didn't agree, but the US Supreme Court did, ruling in a landmark 1992 decision that the threshold question for First Amendment analysis is not whether a certain type of speech is protected or not, but ``whether a law discriminates between viewpoints.'' Cleary correctly perceives that the general reader needs some appreciation of the evolution of free-speech jurisprudence to grasp the magnitude of the R.A.V. holding, but his workmanlike survey of a century of Supreme Court cases will glaze the eyes of all but Constitution wonks. For such a high-profile case, this book is remarkably devoid of human drama: Only the tales of the ACLU's passive-aggressive litigation support, and an attempt by two law- school honchos to commandeer Cleary's Supreme Court appearance, leaven the dry, dead-earnest prose. No juicy war stories here: just the author's Supreme Court brief annotated and enlarged for the general reader.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42460-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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