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Law professor testifies on free speech at Congressional hearing

  • Free Speech
    Free Speech  Timothy Zick is the Cabell Research Professor of Law at the William & Mary Law School. He specializes in First Amendment Constitutional Law and is the author of the book, Free Speech Out of Doors.  
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Cabell Research Professor of Law Timothy Zick testified before Congress Jan. 24 at a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census, and the National Archives. The hearing was entitled, “McPherson Square: Who Made The Decision to Allow Indefinite Camping In The Park?” Zick was asked to testify in his capacity as an expert on freedom of speech in public spaces.

Zick told the Committee that while most speech activity in public places is transitory, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and its progeny, such as the Occupy D.C. protest in McPherson Square, exhibit more permanence. The issues at stake broadly implicate principles of free speech and governmental proprietorship of public parks. Such places, Zick noted, “have served as public forums in which citizens have exercised fundamental First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, assembly, and petition.”  In this instance, “National Park Service officials have come under criticism for perhaps being too permissive with regard to the exercise of expressive liberties in a public park,” Zick said. “In my view, however, NPS has discharged its important constitutional obligations to preserve robust expressive liberties in McPherson Square and has also sought to ensure these activities do not unduly harm the property, the surrounding community, or pose a danger to the participants themselves.”

Zick has published 15 articles and shorter works on a wide variety of constitutional issues, with a special focus on issues of free speech and federalism. His 2009 book, Speech Out of Doors: Preserving First Amendment Liberties in Public Places (Cambridge University Press) examines the importance of public places to First Amendment liberties. He is currently at work on a second book, The Cosmopolitan First Amendment (forthcoming from Cambridge University Press).

Professor Zick graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University in 1989 and summa cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 1992, where he received the Francis E. Lucey, S.J. Award for graduating first in his class. While at Georgetown, Zick was a Notes & Comments editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. Zick joined the faculty at William & Mary Law School in 2008, after teaching at St. John’s Law School for six years.

Zick was joined by another William & Mary representative on the panel. Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, is a member of the Class of 1975. Jarvis was appointed to his post in 2009.