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Monday, Oct 08 2012 01:39 PM

Scholar to address our right to say even unpopular things

By The Bakersfield Californian

A speech last year on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that drew harsh criticism has prompted organizers of the lecture series to invite a renowned constitutional scholar to address the First Amendment's protection of free expression, even if it's unpopular.

Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, is the featured guest Tuesday evening at the Eight Annual Fall Lecture, hosted by CSUB's Kegley Institute of Ethics.

Related Info

Lecture by constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Dore Theatre at Cal State Bakersfield, 9001 Stockdale Highway

Admission: Free and open to the public

Parking: Free after 6 p.m. in lots A, B and C

Information: csub.edu/kie or 654-2555.

Chemerinsky has twice found himself in the thick of real-world First Amendment debates, the first of which centered on his appointment as dean of the law school. He was strongly opposed by powerful community members who disliked his liberal politics, and only after much uproar did the university keep its commitment to hire him.

Then, in 2010, Chemerinsky made news after urging prosecution of a group of protesters who disrupted a talk by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.

"Freedom of speech, on campuses and elsewhere, is rendered meaningless if speakers can be shouted down by those who disagree," Chemerinsky said at the time. Ten of the 11 students were convicted of misdemeanors in the case.

Christopher Meyers, director of the Kegley Institute, reached out to Chemerinsky following criticism of a speech given at CSUB last fall by writer and political commentator Susan Abulhawa, who denounced Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

"While we received many accolades, the criticisms were loud enough and numerous enough to motivate an extended conversation," Meyers said. "He really is one of the go-to people for the legal and moral foundations of the First Amendment, especially the free-speech clause."

Prior to his appointment at UC Irvine, Chemerinsky taught at a number of law schools, including those at Duke, the University of Southern California and UCLA. He is the author of seven books, most recently, "The Conservative Assault on the Constitution" (October 2010, Simon & Schuster), and nearly 200 articles in top law reviews. He frequently argues cases before the nation's highest courts, and also serves as a commentator on legal issues for national and local media. Chemerinsky holds a law degree from Harvard Law School and a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University.

-- Information for this report was taken from a CSUB media release

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