Knight Institute Files Brief in Ninth Circuit on Behalf of Prominent Legal Scholars, Explaining that BDS Boycotts are Protected by the First Amendment

January 24, 2019

The Knight First Amendment Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief today on behalf of 13 prominent legal scholars in Jordahl v. Brnovich.  The case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals involves an Arizona law that requires state contractors to certify in writing that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel. The certification requirement violates the First Amendment, the brief explains.   

“This is an easy First Amendment case,” said Ramya Krishnan, Staff Attorney at the Knight Institute. “Politically motivated consumer boycotts are a form of protected speech, as the Supreme Court held almost four decades ago. The First Amendment forecloses a state from suppressing or burdening a political boycott simply because it disagrees with the boycott’s message, but that’s precisely what Arizona has done here.”

In today’s brief, the legal scholars explain that boycotts connected with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement are protected under the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in N.A.A.C.P. v. Claiborne Hardware Co., which held that the First Amendment extends to politically motivated boycotts by consumers. The brief also explains that the language of Arizona’s anti-boycott law, as well as its legislative history, make clear that it is intended to silence a particular political viewpoint expressed by groups critical of Israeli and U.S. policy.

The Knight Institute filed the brief on behalf of William D. Araiza (Brooklyn Law School); Jack Balkin (Yale Law School); Erwin Chemerinsky (University of California, Berkeley, School of Law); Owen Fiss (Yale Law School); Katherine Franke (Columbia Law School); Jeremy Kessler (Columbia Law School); Seth F. Kreimer (University of Pennsylvania Law School); Genevieve Lakier (University of Chicago Law School); Burt Neuborne (New York University School of Law); Robert Post (Yale Law School); Amanda Shanor (University of Pennsylvania); Geoffrey R. Stone (University of Chicago Law School); Nadine Strossen (New York Law School).

Read the brief here.

For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, Communications Director, Knight Institute, lorraine.kenny@knightcolumbia.org.

About the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

The Knight First Amendment Institute is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization established by Columbia University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to defend the freedoms of speech and press in the digital age through strategic litigation, research, and public education. Its aim is to promote a system of free expression that is open and inclusive, that broadens and elevates public discourse, and that fosters creativity, accountability, and effective self-government.