Allen Dickerson, Legal Director of the Center for Competitive Politics (with whom I’ve had countless but respectful disagreements over the years) writes at CCP’s blog:
In a similar vein, Mr. Adams takes issue with a listserv run by Professor Rick Hasen:
Hasen runs an online meeting hall for all the would-be speech totalitarians. They post, bluster, and kibitz about the latest news on their effort to erode the First Amendment and increase federal power. Whenever a free speech advocate seeks to contribute to the conversation at the blog, they are often deliberately given a cold shoulder and ignored, per plan. The ignored don’t understand that leftists aren’t interested in debate. Their pedigree requires the eradication of opposing ideas, not their incubation.
He goes on to suggest that, because this listserv is hosted by a public university (Prof. Hasen teaches at the University of California, Irvine), that it is appropriate to file “a freedom of information request demanding Hasen’s emails to the White House and other government officials including any on the topic of speech regulations.”
As a participant on that listserv—and I do not believe that Mr. Adams would consider me a “speech totalitarian”—I can say that while Prof. Hasen and I disagree on a great many things, I have never been given the cold shoulder or ignored. There have been exchanges both terse and tense, but that is to be expected in discussing this issue. This isn’t a field populated by folks with thin skins.
More importantly, a bedrock principle for many of us is that private speech should be left alone. Prof. Hasen is a private citizen. While leaving aside the merits of any particular state Public Records Act request (I am not a California lawyer), there is an unmistakable air of intimidation in requesting a private person’s emails, especially when that same request can be more properly addressed to any government officials involved.
I do want to clear up one misconception of Allen’s, created by Mr. Adams’ original post. Adams wrote: “Judicial Watch sent the University of California at Irvine a freedom of information request demanding Hasen’s emails to the White House and other government officials including any on the topic of speech regulations.” (my emphasis) Allen then writes that any public records requests should go to whatever government officials are out there. But that’s not all that Judicial Watch asked for. They asked for virtually all of my email for a two year period [corrected] except internal UCI email and email sent to students:
“…Judicial Watch, Inc. requests from the University of California access to and a copy of any and all record(s)… concerning or relating to the following:
1) All emails from Law Professor Rick Hasen from September 1, 2010 through November 6, 2012, to any party outside of the University of California, Irvine, sent on University of California, Irvine, servers from firstname.lastname@example.org. This request does not therefore include any administrative emails regarding the University of California, or any emails to students or the like.
2) All emails from third parties outside the University of California, Irvine, system sent to Law Professor Rick Hasen sent from September 1, 2010 through November 6, 2012, on University of California, lrvine, servers to email@example.com. This request does not therefore include any administrative emails regarding the University of California, or any emails from students or the like.
3) Moreover, this request does not seek any emails which are already public record by virtue of being part of a list serve run by Law Professor Rick Hasen and housed on University of California, Irvine, servers at http://department-lists.uci.edu/mailman/listinfo/lawelection. This request does not include email traffic which is part of this list serve and already has been posted publically though it also appears in Professor Hasens in or out box for his email mailbox firstname.lastname@example.org.”
So it is worse than Eric Rasmussen thought too.