In the February issue of Arizona Attorney, we will publish remarks delivered by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at the dedication of the nation’s first Bill of Rights Monument.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton speaks at Bill of Rights Monument dedication, Dec. 15, 2012

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton speaks at Bill of Rights Monument dedication, Dec. 15, 2012

One of the reasons is that over the past year, we’ve covered the run-up to the monument, so it’s great to let you know the monoliths are finally in the ground.

But the bigger reason is that his words were well chosen and rather inspiring. Of course, you may disagree. But that’s the thing about inspiration: One listener’s wow is another’s woe.

Here is some of what the Mayor said:

“We risk shortchanging ourselves and posterity when we regard the Constitution as a closed book from which no further new insight is possible. Our flexible foundation for interpreting the Constitution has made our great country the strongest and oldest continuous democracy in the world.”

“The Founders’ genius lies not in a pretension to clairvoyant understanding of their thoughts at the time the Constitution was drafted. It lies in the Founders’ intent that we would apply common-sense understanding of whom We the People are, our shared history, and our shared aspirations. The Constitution is not a dead text that we mechanically recite. It is a mirror in which our better selves are reflected.”

“These stone monuments commemorating the Bill of Rights are magnificent. They are a fitting memorial for the real thing. But the real thing is not a stone. The real thing is a living Constitution that gives hope to the United States and the rest of the world, for today and the future.”

Ninth Amendment monolith unveiled by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton

Ninth Amendment monolith unveiled by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton

His words came to mind the other day as I read a blog post by lawyer Melinda Hightower. In it, she provided three videos that “help you rediscover your passion for law.”

Her selections are inspired, but you and I may have selected differently. She anticipates that when she asks her readers to offer their own favorite speeches. OK, I thought; let me think about it.

My first inclination was to watch a clip from My Cousin Vinny. (I know: It’s a cry for help.) But I suspect she meant a speech on a more serious plane. So although they were more recent and did not influence my decision to go to law school, I offer two. The first, recent, one is Mayor Stanton’s remarks.

The second speech is one that was uttered by Morris Dees, lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He delivered the McCormick Lecture at UA Law School recently, but I point you to “Morris Dees: With Justice for All,” the video version of a speech he delivered at Grinnell College. Here it is.

So let me repeat Melinda Hightower’s excellent question: “What speeches have inspired you to pursue your interest in law?” What speeches would you recommend to others?

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This morning, I am staring at a dollar bill on my desk, trying to decipher what it “says.”

Legally speaking, it’s quite likely that it’s saying something, since the U.S. Supreme Court held that in the campaign-contribution context, that dollar is speech.

So if a greenback can talk up a storm, how is it possible that a Facebook “Like” holds no communicative value?

That was the ruling at a federal district court that had to determine whether employees were fired for exercising their free-speech rights. As the Washington Post tells the tale: 

“Daniel Ray Carter Jr. logged on to Facebook and did what millions do each day: He ‘liked’ a page by clicking the site’s thumbs up icon. The problem was that the page was for a candidate who was challenging his boss, the sheriff of Hampton, Va.

“That simple mouse click, Carter says, caused the sheriff to fire him from his job as a deputy and put him at the center of an emerging First Amendment debate over the ubiquitous digital seal of approval: Is liking something on Facebook protected free speech?”

Read the whole article here.

Risky behavior, certainly, especially given how tetchy elected sheriffs can be. But the court ruled that a simple click of “Like,” without commenting, is not speech.

The sheriff’s office is likely ecstatic. But the ruling puts that office in a strange conceptual box: The office fired people for taking a speech position contrary to the top official’s position. And the court sustained that employment decision because there was no speech involved.

Confused yet?

Oddly enough, would the court have had to rule otherwise if the employees had dropped dollar bills off at the opponent’s campaign headquarters without a note attached, rather than signal support via a digital thumbs-up?

Now, of course, the appeals roll in. As this article explains, Facebook, the ACLU and a number of amici have briefed the issue of how a Like certainly is speech.

It all makes me wonder how much the court understands social media. I wrote on Friday about a promising survey that shows judges are growing warmer to social media. But anyone who has ever worked hard for a “Like” for their business’s Facebook page understands inherently that a Like is speech. And among all the difficult-to-grasp concepts in technology, “Like” is just what it sounds.

Feel free to Like this post; I’ll know it means something.