On Wednesday, Oct. 28, at noon Eastern, the Free Speech Project will host an hourlong online event titled Do We Need a First Amendment 2.0? For more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website.
When I was finishing up law school in 1990 at the University of Texas, there was nothing I wanted more than to clerk for Judge Marvin Odell Teague. As a member of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Teague produced more than 1,000 of the best-written, funniest opinions I’ve ever read. His barbed dissents had the flash of the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s: “Today, we witness the bastard child that two judges of this Court gave birth to in Woodward v. State, 668 S.W.2d 337 (Tex.Cr.App.1982), reaching puberty,” he remarked in one 1984 case. “It will be most interesting to see what the bastard child looks like when it reaches full manhood.” He was dissenting in that case, he explained, because “I am unable to agree that this Court should buy the damaged and unrepairable merchandise the State is selling in this cause, namely, appellant’s confession.” Which is to say, Teague was more spiritually generous than Scalia—and almost always more pro-defendant. I won an interview with him, which was vastly entertaining in itself, but didn’t get the spot. He died less than a year later, at the far-too-young age of 57.
In an alternate universe, Teague—born just a few months after Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1933—might have lived long enough to hear an appeal of Texas’ prosecution, announced just this week, of Netflix for its streaming of the French film Mignonnes (Cuties in the U.S.). Netflix was charged with “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child” by a grand jury at the direction of Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin. Babin’s biggest previous claim to fame is his portrayal of the invariably bare-chested guitarist “Spider” in fellow Texan Richard Linklater’s The School of Rock. In the Linklater film, child actors playing precocious prep-school student musicians—who regularly upstage star Jack Black—share more than a few traits with the entrepreneurially competitive 11-year-old protagonists of Cuties.
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