FCBA Sponsors Law Week Events Focused on First Amendment

The FCBA helped the U.S. District Court celebrate Law Week by teaching the First Amendment to more than 850 high school students across the Northern District.

McGraw High School and Tully High School students, with Chief United States Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Cangilos-Ruiz and United States Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks

McGraw High School and Tully High School students, with Chief United States Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Cangilos-Ruiz and United States Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks

This year’s theme of Law Day (May 1) was the right of free speech in public schools, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969), which held that public school officials could not prohibit students from wearing black armbands on their sleeves to exhibit their disapproval of the Vietnam War, in the absence of any reasonable fear of a substantial and material disruption of schoolwork or discipline. Other First Amendment cases taught included Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007) (holding that school did not violate student’s First Amendment rights by suspending him for waving banner reading “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” in front of TV camera during off-campus, school-sponsored event watching Olympic Torch relay pass through town); Guiles v. Marineau, 461 F.3d 320 (2d Cir. 2006) (holding that school violated student’s First Amendment rights by prohibiting him from wearing T-shirt criticizing President George W. Bush for, among other things, his alleged illegal drug use); and Russo v. Cent. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 469 F.2d 623 (2d Cir. 1972) holding that First Amendment right to stand silently at attention during daily classroom recitation of Pledge of Allegiance extends to teachers, not simply students.

Henninger High School students, with United States District Judge Brenda K. Sannes

Henninger High School students, with United States District Judge Brenda K. Sannes

Classes occurred in nine locations – the federal courthouse in Albany, the federal courthouse in Syracuse, the Bethlehem Youth Court, and schools in Auburn, Baldwinsville, Dexter, McGraw, Philadelphia and Syracuse – over three days, May 1-3).

Eight federal judges taught the classes: Chief U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby, U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino, U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes, Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Cangilos-Ruiz, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter, U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel). They were joined by an Assistant Counsel to the Governor (Christopher R. Riano), six law clerks (Debbie Moore, Gioia Gensini, Mike Langan, Jill Levy, Rafi Stern and Haseeb Fatmi), and 16 attorneys, most of whom were FCBA members (Adam Katz, Brian Lyda, Christina Cagnina, Gene Primomo, Jenna Smith, John Powers, Liza Magley, Mara Afzali, Melissa Rothbart, Molly Casey, Nancy Delain, Ramon Rivera, Rob Wells, Stephen Green, Susan Farley and Taylor Reynolds).

“Many thanks to the FCBA volunteers, who really came through for us,” said Chief Judge Cangilos-Ruiz, who (together with Judge D’Agostino) took a leading role in organizing the event.

United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter speaking to LaFayette High School and BOCES Mexico students

United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter speaking to LaFayette High School and BOCES Mexico students

The students came from 14 high schools: Amsterdam High School in Montgomery County, Bethlehem High School in Albany County, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School in Saratoga County, The Center for Instruction, Technology & Innovation in Oswego County, Charles W. Baker High School in Onondaga County, East Syracuse-Minoa Central High School, General Brown Junior-Senior High School in Jefferson County, Henninger High School in Syracuse, Indian River High School in Jefferson County, LaFayette Junior-Senior High School in Onondaga County, McGraw High School in Cortland County, Syracuse Academy of Science and Citizenship Charter School, Tully High School in Onondaga County, and Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate in Cayuga County. They were often lively, asking lots of good questions.

“What a remarkable three days,” reported Judge D’Agostino. “In my view, Law Week was a resounding success.”

FCBA members who know of school teachers who would like employees of the Court to come to their school and speak about the First Amendment are encouraged to email the FCBA’s Executive Director, Shelly Childers, at schilders@ndnyfcba.org.