Bankruptcy and the First Amendment

A quote from my student Jennifer Wilson, who had worked as a reporter for five years before going to law school.


Everyone raises their eyebrows when I say "I'm interested in bankruptcy law and First Amendment law," but it makes a lot of sense if you think of newspapers in the middle of the Venn diagram.

NEXT: Legal aspects of the GEDmatch warrant

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  1. OT and OTW: Is there a Gary T. Schwartz Undistinguished Professor of Law at UCLA?

    IANAL and especially IANADL, but I thought one of the features of law analysis is that every word is significant. A word present in only some statutes is treated as intentionally different.

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Glad you asked. The ranking goes, in order:

      Distinguished Professor
      Pretty Good Professor
      OK Professor
      Relative of Someone Important
      Don’t Know How *He* Got Here

      1. Is grey hair a requirement for Distinguished? Asking for a … conspirator, yeah, that’s the ticket.

      2. When they aren’t going to give you more money, they give you a better-sounding job title instead.

    2. The rule is, the person who hands over the money to endow a professor job gets to decide what the job title should be. (some schools have more complicated rules, because they can, others just have this one, because they’re happy to take anyone’s money.)
      If you’re paying money to endow a prof, you don’t want just any prof, you want to be paying the top guy(s) in the school. So you get a bit of job title inflation out of that dynamic.

      1. If I’m on a budget, can I get a mediocre scholar that the students like as a teacher? Seems like better PR anyway.

        1. There are definitely plenty of endowed chairs with specific teaching duties, that tend to look specifically for instructional bona fides. I took physical chemistry from one, actually – he was one of the best instructors I’ve ever had.

        2. Nobody cares what the students think. They pay some attention to what accrediting committees think.
          They’ll take a guy who writes law-review articles on arcane subjects but which get mentioned by judges, over a guy who effectively teaches law to law students.
          The assumption is kind of that anyone can teach law to law students. Anyways, the bar review providers can pick up the slack.

  2. I wish her well! I’ve done bankruptcies, including media bankruptcies, and the First Amendment didn’t really come up. A newspaper might have interesting First Amendment issues and a newspaper might end up going bankrupt, but the two are unlikely to be related. The controversy resolved in Milavetz v. US was a good one, but is now settled law and mostly avoided the First Amendment with a narrow construction.

    1. If they are operating in bankruptcy, then first amendment issues might surface because the bankruptcy trustee is overseeing their operations.

  3. “makes a lot of sense if you think of newspapers in the middle of the Venn diagram.”

    In the middle of the “bankruptcy” circle? That does make sense.

  4. What First Amendment concerns are raised by newspapers going bankrupt? Unless your student has the mistaken belief that newspapers/journalists enjoy special First Amendment protections beyond those enjoyed by non-journalists. Unfortunately, this view is quite common among journalists.

    1. I think it’s less tightly coupled than that; the correct construction simply seems to be “where are first amendment law and bankruptcy law both likely to be useful?”

      1. I took it to be just rueful humor about the sad state of an industry she loves, coupled with the fact that she finds both bankruptcy law and First Amendment law interesting.

  5. When I saw the subject line, I assumed Eugene was going to talk about the way bankruptcy silences creditors. (Once a debt is discharged in bankruptcy, the creditor is usually forbidden ever to make any further attempt to collect it, including dunning the debtor. This can sometimes include plaintiffs in other types of lawsuits against the debtor, which can cause those suits to be dismissed without prejudice (without an outcome). In some cases where the other suit was very controversial, this has resulted in the bankrupt defendant trying to use his bankruptcy verdict to make the plaintiff stop talking about the case to others; I don’t know under what conditions he may or may not get his way.)

  6. I think the idea here is that she wants to provide newspapers a complete set of legal services covering all their likely needs, not that these two areas of law are inherently related or that newspaper-related legal cases tend to involve both simultaneously.

    It would be like domestic lawyer specializing in both pre-nups and divorces, even though these also don’t tend to both happen at the same time.

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