Mid-November is always a special time for liberty-loving lawyers, as the Federalist Society hosts its annual National Lawyers Convention here in Washington, D.C. The convention offers many insightful panel discussions on a variety of legal and political topics. I was honored to join a panel on anonymous speech with Andrew Grossman from the law firm Baker Hostetler, Paul S. Ryan from the Campaign Legal Center, and Hans von Spakovsky from the Heritage Foundation. We debated anonymous speech in the context of political contributions and sources for news reporters. I argued in favor of strong protection for confidential news sources, and then joined the discussion for political contributions.

Watch the panel here:

The Free Speech panel was not the only one that ties in with our work here at Pillar. The Criminal Law group discussed the criminalization of politics, with help from former prosecutors and, notably, Prof. Eugene Volokh of UCLA and founder of the Volokh Conspiracy blog:

Finally, I thought the most impressive showcase panel of the convention was the final one, which included Prof. Rick Pildes from New York University School of Law and former Rep. Howard Berman from California:

In an interesting parallel, one of my arguments on the anonymous speech panel for journalistic privilege was that FOIA and other document-based government transparency laws are losing some effectiveness because some government agencies are just not producing as many documents subject to FOIA. So, to get inside information journalists will have to cultivate sources, and anonymous ones can speak far more frankly. At various times throughout the final showcase, panelists commented that there should be more secrecy within government—that is, within the legislative process. Again, I believe this supports the notion that citizens should be able to cultivate government sources with the full protection of a free press, subject only to subpoenas when compelling interests come into play (such as national security) and there is no other plausible way government can identify the “leak.”

The Lawyers Convention is always a marathon of Madisonian excellence. I look forward to next year!