Instructor(s): David Lepofsky

For graduate students, the course number is LAW7046HF.

Note: Class participation is substantially weighted and seminars are cumulative, therefore, attendance is mandatory, subject to emergencies. Students on the waitlist must attend while on the waitlist if they wish to be confirmed into the course at the end of the add/drop period should a spot arise.

This course explores the content of, purposes of, and justifiable limits on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. It explores the theoretical underpinnings of these guarantees in a democracy, and the history of their legal treatment under the U.S. Constitution and under Canadian law before the enactment of the Charter of Rights. Thereafter, the bulk of the course will involve an examination of the leading controversial issues surrounding free speech and press. These include: e.g. pornography laws, hate propaganda laws, and the relationship between free speech and equality rights; the clash between freedom of the press to report on court proceedings and the accused's right to a fair trial, free from prejudicial publicity; protection of national security and the scope for political dissent; free speech versus the protection of individual privacy and reputation by defamation laws; regulation of the electoral process through controls on campaign contributions and spending limits; and the claims by journalists for special constitutional protections for gathering and disseminating news, e.g. through a privilege against compelled disclosure of confidential news informants.

This in-depth examination of freedom of expression and press serves as a springboard for understanding the workings of the Charter of Rights generally, through a more intensive scrutiny of these fundamental freedoms than is possible in an introductory constitutional law course. Course themes will include: whether free expression can bear different meanings in different societies; what role the media plays in a democracy, and its relationship to the public and the government; what makes free expression a fundamental freedom, distinct from other rights; and to what extent can the courts, through the litigation process, effectively address these fundamental questions.

Student evaluation will include three components: (a) essay on a specific free expression and press topic from among those to be covered in class - minimum 6,250 words (70%); (b) class oral presentation on the essay topic (10%); and (c) class participation 20% (10% attendance and 10% input into discussion).

At a Glance

First Term


6 JD


W: 10:30 - 12:20