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Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Lewis was a columnist for the New York Times op-ed page from 1969 through 2001. In addition to his long and distinguished career with the Times, Mr. Lewis has been a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School and a visiting professor at the Universities of California, Illinois, Oregon, and Arizona, and, since 1983, the James Madison Visiting Professor at Columbia University. His previous books are Gideon's Trumpet and Make No Law. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The First Amendment's injunction that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" seems cut and dried, but its application has had a vexed history, according to this lucid legal history, Lewis's first book in 15 years (after Make No Law and Gideon's Trumpet). Some suppressions of free speech passed constitutional muster in their day: the 1798 Sedition Act criminalized criticism of the president, and the WWI-era Sedition Act sentenced a minister to 15 years in prison for telling his Bible class that "a Christian can take no part in the war." Law professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-New York Times columnist Lewis explores other First Amendment legal quagmires, including libel law, privacy issues, the press's shielding of confidential sources, obscenity and hate speech. Not quite a free speech absolutist, he's for punishing "speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience... whose members are ready to act." Lewis's story is about the advancement of freedom by the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Louis Brandeis and others whose "bold judicial decisions have made the country what it is." The result is an occasionally stirring account of America's evolving idea of liberty. (Jan. 14) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.