Reclaiming the Petition Clause


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Seditious Libel, "Offensive" Protest, and the Right to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances

Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr.

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Since the 2004 presidential campaign, when the Bush presidential advance team prevented anyone who seemed unsympathetic to their candidate from attending his ostensibly public appearances, it has become commonplace for law enforcement officers and political event sponsors to classify ordinary expressions of dissent as security threats and to try to keep officeholders as far removed from possible protest as they can. Thus without formally limiting free speech the government places arbitrary restrictions on how, when, and where such speech may occur. 

Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr., is John S. Stone Chair and Professor of Law at University of Alabama Law School in Tuscaloosa.

"Ronald Krotoszynski has successfully reclaimed the Petition Clause, an often-overlooked provision that is, as he ably demonstrates, critical to public contention and democratic self-governance."—Timothy Zick, author of Speech Out of Doors: Preserving First Amendment Liberties in Public Places

"This volume is everything that constitutional law scholarship should be: historically informed, richly nuanced, and containing a bold proposal that is grounded in our constitutional traditions. By asking big questions and providing workable answers, Krotoszynski aims at nothing less than revitalizing American democracy through returning to first premises." —Tom Ginsburg, Leo Spitz Professor of Law, University of Chicago

“Krotoszynski shows that even in this age of assassins and terrorists, legitimate security concerns need not trump the time-honored right of protesters to confront public officials directly and personally.”—David A. Anderson, Fred & Emily Wulff Chair, University of Texas Law School

"Reclaiming the Petition Clause is an enormously significant reminder of a long forgotten part of America’s First Amendment tradition. It offers a lively and engaging examination of the importance of the right to petition for a redress of grievances as part of democratic governance. Krotoszynski seeks to revive that right and in so doing promote democracy in an era when it has been all too frequently sacrificed in the name of security. This book is a remarkable achievement."—Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science, Amherst College

“Professor Krotoszynski argues convincingly that scholars and judges are wrong to view the Petition Clause as a quaint relic that has been rendered largely irrelevant by other rights and freedoms. At a time when political protesters literally find themselves encircled in barbed wire and hidden from view in the name of security, his historical and comparative account of petitioning in different countries demonstrates the vital role that a reinvigorated right of petition can and should play in securing good governance and democratic accountability.”—David S. Law, Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis

"Moving nimbly across the centuries, Krotoszynski reclaims a right to petition that links Runnymede to Selma. His model of citizen engagement will speak to the populist aspirations of the Tea Party and the Occupy movement alike.”—James E. Pfander, Northwestern University

ISBN: 9780300149876
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
336 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4