The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
David Hudson (Newseum) reports on Paul Robert Cohen, wearer of the famous "Fuck the Draft" jacket that went all the way up to the Supreme Court in Cohen v. California (1971):
"There are so many misconceptions about the case and about me," [Cohen] said in a recent interview. "I didn't even see the wording on the jacket until the morning before I was headed to court to testify on behalf of an acquaintance. I was and am a patriotic person."
He says that a woman he met the night before had stenciled the words on the jacket. "I had a Ph.D. in partying back in those days," he said. "I wasn't trying to make a political statement." …
[Cohen returned] to the trial court when the case was remanded for formal dismissal of his charges. "I could tell the judge was upset with the Supreme Court's ruling in my favor," he says. "I probably angered him even more when I asked for my jacket back." He never did….
"I spent years thinking about whether the decision was correct," [Cohen] said. "I wasn't a person who used a lot of profanity and I didn't think women and children should have had to see that language on the jacket. I didn't want to be known as contributing to what President Ronald Reagan, whom I admired, called the 'Filthy Speech movement.' I mean there were children in that courthouse.
"However, I came to the conclusion that I agreed with the decision simply because the government shouldn't be able to decide what speech an individuals can or cannot speak," he said. "That would be quite a slippery slope."
Cohen remains a staunch defender of the Bill of Rights, not only of the free speech but also of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. "The Second Amendment is an important constitutional right," he says. "It helps to ensure that we have the right to speak freely and other constitutional rights."
Thanks to Prof. Eric Freedman for the pointer.