Communication Law
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Communication Law

Practical Applications in the Digital Age

Dom Caristi, William R Davie, Laurie Thomas Lee

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eBook - ePub

Communication Law

Practical Applications in the Digital Age

Dom Caristi, William R Davie, Laurie Thomas Lee

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About This Book

This fully revised third edition brings a fresh approach to the fundamentals of mass media and communication law in a presentation that undergraduate students find engaging and accessible.

Designed for students of communication that are new to law, this volume presents key principles and emphasizes the impact of timely, landmark cases on today's media world, providing an applied learning experience. This new edition offers expanded coverage of digital media law and social media, a wealth of new case studies, expanded discussions of current political, social, and cultural issues, and new features focused on ethical considerations and on international comparative law.

Communication Law serves as a core textbook for undergraduate courses in communication and mass media law.

Online resources for instructors, including an Instructor's Manual, Test Bank, and PowerPoint slides, are available at:

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Sources of Law and Systems of Justice

Public Protests and the Rule of Law

Americans see the rule of law as an essential safeguard for personal freedoms, including freedom of expression and assembly, holding to their belief the laws imposed by state and local governments must be just, fairly enforced, and uniformly upheld. When those rights come into conflict with other interests such as health and safety, or when law enforcement does not adhere to constitutional principles, Americans seek justice from their court system.
When state and local governments took sweeping action to mitigate the spread of a deadly virus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans wondered how their rights might be suspended for reasons of health and safety. The rules of social distancing and stay-at-home orders varied from state to state including exemptions for such reasons as Sunday worship. California’s government, for example, ordered a full ban on religious gatherings during the pandemic. A group of churches responded by suing Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), challenging this ban as a violation of their constitutional rights. A federal panel of judges1 heard the petition and ruled against the churches, citing Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905).2 That precedent from years ago authorized a health board to require vaccinations during a smallpox outbreak in Massachusetts.
In response to that ruling, the White House moved against the state of California with the president asking churches to reopen their doors to worship. The U.S. Justice Department defended his position through a warning letter to Gov. Newsom that “the Constitution calls for California to do more to accommodate religious worship.”3 Citing the Supreme Court case of Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, Florida,4 the letter reminded California it must act with neutrality toward religious freedom with generally applicable laws that serve a compelling interest using the least restrictive means possible toward constitutional rights. In response, the state relented but issued strict guidelines for churches to reopen so long as they monitored congregations for COVID-19 fever, practiced social distancing, and regularly disinfected contact areas in the church.5 Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court took the case and supported the State of California in a 5–4 ruling, although much was made of the dissenting justices’ regard for the protection of religion. Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote for the majority, “Our Constitution principally entrusts ‘the safety and the health of the people’ to the politically accountable officials of the states ‘to guard and protect.’”6 In the U.S., state and federal branches of government move to check each other’s acts affecting fundamental constitutional rights.
Separation of powers and the checking function of the three coequal branches are central to our republican form of government. The role of the courts is to ensure that the executive and legislative branches do not overreach their authority. Even though the mechanism creating this balance of branches, separate and equal, is inefficient, it stands as a bulwark against dictatorial rule under a relatively stable Constitution that has been only amended 27 times since its ratification in 1787.

Sources of Law

To institutionalize a check on tyranny, the framers of the Constitution divided the federal powers into equal departments of government. President Washington, at the time he left office, believed danger was inherent in the “spirit of encroachment (that) tends to consolidate the powers of all departments in one” and would, if left unchecked, create “a real despotism.” The solution for the foundation of the new nation would be “reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power; by distributing it into different depositories.”9 James Madison (see Figure 1.1), the chief architect of the Constitution, felt a sense of urgency since the earlier Articles of Confederation had failed to afford sufficient power needed to sustain the government. The founding fathers preferred a united republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches to check on the use or abuse of power in each other’s branches.
Figure 1.1 Portrait of James Madison
Figure 1.1 Portrait of James Madison
Source: By Chester Harding, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
Time was pressing for the Constitution’s adoption because if the vote was postponed “it may occasion suspicions, which though not well founded, may tend to influence or prejudice the public mind, against our decisions,” wrote Madison as he pleaded for “wise and liberal men to make such alterations as shall produce that effect”10 and move for its passage. The three branches were given their respective powers in the first three articles of the Constitution with legislative first, followed by executive, and then judiciary. The four articles that followed dealt with the states’ rights and relations; constitutional amendments; treaties and qualifications for public office; and the means for ratification. The Bill of Rights was added in 1791 setting out ten amendments to protect essential freedoms and define certain responsibilities.
The judicial branch exercised its power of oversight in a landmark case, Mar-bury v. Madison (1803) that showed how the Supreme Court would interpret the Constitution. From that case comes the principle that courts interpret laws and have the power to strike down ones in violation of the Constitution.

Table of contents

Citation styles for Communication Law
APA 6 Citation
Caristi, D., Davie, W., & Lee, L. T. (2021). Communication Law (3rd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2021)
Chicago Citation
Caristi, Dom, William Davie, and Laurie Thomas Lee. (2021) 2021. Communication Law. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Caristi, D., Davie, W. and Lee, L. T. (2021) Communication Law. 3rd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Caristi, Dom, William Davie, and Laurie Thomas Lee. Communication Law. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.