Brooklyn Law Review


Floyd Abrams


Noted First Amendment litigator Floyd Abrams engages questions about the past, the present and the future of free speech directly by considering the key words from Justice Holmes’s canonical formulation for the constitutional standard governing regulation of incitement speech—the requirement that any danger justifying such speech regulation must be “clear and present.” Mr. Abrams asks what types of “danger” are sufficiently “present” to provide that justification, using as examples the Communist teachings at issue in Dennis v. United States and The Progressive magazine’s publication of plans for constructing a hydrogen bomb. While Mr. Abrams reaches no hard and fast conclusion on this exceptionally difficult question, this essay places both the difficulty and the stakes of that issue in stark relief.