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New Book Offers Timely Insights into Free Speech, Civil Rights


In his new book, Confessions of a Free Speech Lawyer, Delaware Law School Dean Rodney Smolla offers personal insight into the ways that free speech protections and civil rights protections have come into conflict in light of the violent clashes that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia during the summer of 2018.

A nationally-known scholar on matters relating to constitutional law, civil rights, freedom of speech, and mass media - particularly matters relating to libel and privacy - Dean Smolla has participated in a number of landmark free speech cases over the course of his career, including his role as lead counsel in a famous Supreme Court decision which challenged Virginia’s anti-cross burning law. In the book, Smolla brings those experiences to his consideration of the events in Charlottesville and looks at how that tumultuous period might illuminate fraught legal issues.

Nadine Strossen, a former President of the American Civil Liberties Union, calls the book, “. . . dazzling in its interweaving of such a rich tapestry of information and analysis, told in the form of mesmerizing stories,” while former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz writes, “Rod Smolla is a wonderful story-teller who brings alive the important history of legal and cultural wars over the meaning of free speech, especially during periods of divisive hatred in America. His ‘confessions’ are a compellingly readable blend of personal memoir, history, and legal thought.”

Confessions of a Free Speech Lawyer is published by Cornell University Press and is available online at