Elena Kagan Role of Government Motive in 1st Amendment Doctrine

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  Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First AmendmentDoctrineAuthor(s): Elena KaganSource: The University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Spring, 1996), pp. 413-517Published by: The University of Chicago Law ReviewStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1600235 Accessed: 24/02/2010 17:16 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=uclr.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of¬†content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. The University of Chicago Law Review is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The University of Chicago Law Review. http://www.jstor.org  PrivateSpeech,PublicPurpose:The Role ofGovernmental MotiveinFirstAmendmentDoctrine ElenaKagant INTRODUCTION In one of the mostfrequently quotedpassagesofone ofthemostfrequentlycitedFirstAmendmentdecisions,theSupremeCourtdeclaredthat thepurposeofCongress...isnotabasisfordeclaring[]legislationunconstitutional. 1Notingseveralhazards ofattemptingtoascertainlegislativemotive,theCourtinUnitedStates v O'Brien2eschewedthisendeavor inFirstAmendmentcases,aswellasinotherconstitutionaladjudication.It was no task ofthejudiciarytodiscover or condemn illicitleg-islative motive relatingto thefreedom ofspeech;thequestionfor courts wasonlywhether achallengedstatute,byitsterms orinitsapplication,hadan unconstitutionaleffect onFirstAmendmentfreedoms.3Inkeepingwiththisapproach,mostdescriptive analysesofFirstAmendmentlaw,as well asmost normativediscussions ofthedoctrine,haveconsidered thepermissibilityofgovernmentalregulationofspeech byfocusingontheeffects ofagivenregula-tion.This focus on effectscomesintwostandard varieties.Inone,the criticalinquiryrelatesto the effect of aregulationon thespeaker's abilityto communicate adesiredmessage.Intheother, tProfessorofLaw,TheUniversityofChicago(onleave1995-96 to serveas AssociateCounsel to thePresident).I amgratefultoMaryBecker,DavidCurrie,RichardEpstein,RichardFallon,StephenGilles,DanKahan,Larry Lessig,MichaelMcConnell,MarkRamseyer,Anne-MarieSlaughter,GeoffreyStone,DavidStrauss,CassSunstein,andLaurence Tribe forextremelyhelpfulcomments. The Class of 1964FundandtheRussellJ.ParsonsFacultyResearch Fundprovidedfinancialsupport.1United StatesvO'Brien,391 US367,383(1968). 2 391US367(1968). 3 Id at383,385.IntheO'Briennquiry,the nature of thegovernmentalinterestas-sertedplayedanimportantrole. See idat380-82;textaccompanyingnotes 237-38. Butthe O'BrienCourtcared not at all-or atleastprofessedto carenot atall-whethertheassertedgovernmentalinterestmatched,or evenresembled,theactualinterestunderly-ingthe enactment orenforcementofthelegislation. O'Brien,391US at383-85. 413  TheUniversityofChicagoLaw Review the criticalinquiryrelates to theeffectofaregulationonthelistener'sabilityto obtaininformation.Ineithercase,however,whatmattersis theconsequenceof theregulation.This Article shiftsthefocus fromconsequencestosources;Iargue, notwithstandingtheCourt'sprotestationsinO'Brien,thatFirst Amendmentlaw,asdevelopedbytheSupremeCourt overthepastseveraldecades,has as itsprimary, thoughunstated,objectthediscoveryofimpropergovernmentalmotives. Thedoc-trinecomprisesaseriesoftools toflushout illicit motivesandtoinvalidateactions infectedwiththem.Or,toputthepointanoth-erway,theapplicationof FirstAmendmentlaw isbest under-stood andmostreadily explainedasakindofmotive-hunting.This claimstandsinneedofmuchexplanation,for asO'Brienindicates,eventheattentive observerrarelycatchesaglimpseof theCourtinquiring directlyintogovernmental pur-pose.Butassume for amomentthatdiscoveringimpermissiblemotive stoodastheCourt'soverriding objectintheconsiderationof casesinvolvingthe FirstAmendment. WouldtheCourt thenchargeitselfwiththe taskofdissectingandanalyzingineachcase the reasonsanimatingthe action of agovernmentalofficialorbody?Notlikely,forobvious reasonsrelatingto the ease oflegislatures' offering pretextualmotives and thedifficultyofcourts'discoveringthe real ones.Would, then,the Court have tosurrenderits concern withmotive?Not atall.The Court couldconstructand useobjectivetests to serveasproxiesfor a directinquiryinto motive. It coulddeveloprules thatoperated,like cer-tainburden-shiftingmechanisms orpresumptions,to counterthedifficultiesinvolvedindeterminingmotive and to enable thejudiciarytomake,ifonlyindirectly,that determination.The mostimportant componentsofFirst Amendment doc-trine-indeed,theverystructure of thatdoctrine-servepreciselythisfunction.Ifa court were toattempttodeviseeasily manage-ablerules forferretingoutimpermissible governmentalmotivesin theFirst Amendmentcontext,itfirst would create a distinc-tionbetweenspeech regulationsthat are content neutral andthosethat are contentbased.It thenwoulddevelopa seriesofexceptionsto thatdistinctioninorder tohandleunusually suspi-ciouskinds of content-neutralregulationsandunusuallytrust-worthykinds ofcontent-based restrictions.(Thiseffortmight giverise,forexample,tothe doctrine of so-calledlow-valuespeech.)Itwould add a division ofgreatimportbetweengenerallyapplicableregulations, only incidentallyaffecting speech,andregulationsspecifically targetedatexpressive activity.If,inotherwords,a 414[63:413  PrivateSpeech,PublicPurpose courtwished to constructaset of rulesto determineimpermissi-blemotiveintheFirst Amendmentarea,itmightwelldevise thecomplexsetofdistinctions andcategoriescurrentlygoverningFirst Amendmentlaw. Andconversely,if acourtcould determinegovernmentalpurpose directly,theserules,principles,andcate-goriesmightall beunnecessary.Courts,ofcourse,rarelyconstruct lawinsodeliberateafashion;atleast,the currentSupremeCourt-fractured,clerk-driven,anduninterestedintheoreticalissuesas itis-rarelydoesso.Theself-conscious rationalizationandunification ofbod-ies of lawis notsomethingtoexpectfrom themodernjudiciary.SoIdonot meantostake a claim that individualJustices,muchless the Court asawhole,havesetoutintentionallyto create adoctrinalstructurethatdetects illicit motivebyindirect means.ThestoryItell aboutpurposeinthe law does notdependonanyassertionaboutthepurposeof the Court. WhatIprovideis sim-plyareading-Ithinkthe bestreading-ofthe Court's FirstAmendment cases.Icontend notthat theCourtself-consciouslyconstructedFirstAmendment doctrinetoferret outimpropermotive,but thatforwhateveruncertain,complex,andunknow-ablereasons,thedoctrinereads asifit had been soconstructed.Idonotwishto overstatethecasehere,though perhapsIalreadyhave doneso;Iam not about to craft(yetanother)all-encompassing-whichalmostnecessarilymeansreduction-ist-theoryofthe FirstAmendment.First,what follows ispri-marilyadescriptivetheory; althoughIdiscuss its normativeunderpinnings,Imake no claim that a sensiblesystemof freespeechshould be concernedexclusivelywithgovernmentalmoti-vation.Second,evenseen asdescriptive,thetheoryhas limits.SomeaspectsofFirst Amendment law resistexplanationintermsofmotive;otheraspects,though explicableintermsofmotive,areexplicableas wellbyothermeans;andsometimes,theconcern withgovernmentalmotiveisitself intertwinedwithotherapprehensions.Andyet,all thesequalificationsnotwith-standing,the concern withgovernmentalmotive remains ahuge-lyimportant-indeed,the mostimportant-explanatoryfactorinFirst Amendmentlaw.Ifit does notaccountfor thewholeworldofFirst Amendmentdoctrine,it accounts(andaccountsalone)foragood partof it.SectionIof this Article introduces the discussionby usingarecentcase-R.A.V.vCity ofSt.Paul4-toexplorehow a concern 4 505US 377(1992). 1996]415
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