West Roxbury, Mass.— Catholic Memorial School participated in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 2019 Law Day when Ms. Hannah Kilson, a legal partner at Nolan Sheehan Patten LLP, presented a lecture on free speech, free press, and free society at the school on Thursday morning.
Ms. Kilson presented her lecture to two of Mr. Matthew Callahan’s U.S. History classes. During both presentations, students read from six landmark Supreme Court cases on free speech, debated the rulings written by each justice, and analyzed the rights granted by the Constitution’s First Amendment.
“Think about what it means to be engaged with the news and what it means to be engaged in our legal system,” said Ms. Kilson to the class.
“At the end of the day, public officials are treated differently from private individuals. We should all be aware of our legal liberties and rights.”
Every year on Law Day, the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) partners with the American Bar Association to promote civics education in local classrooms across the state. Legal professionals from across the state volunteer and present on behalf of the MBA at participating schools. The MBA provides their presenters with legal materials based on a specific theme. This year, the MBA chose free speech, free press, and free society as this year’s theme.
CM Vice Principal Ms. Gloria Riley worked with the MBA to connect with Ms. Kilson and invite her to campus. According to the Nolan Sheehan Patten LLP website, Ms. Kilson concentrates her legal practice on real estate transactions in the area of affordable housing and community development. In 1988, she graduated from Amherst College and later earned her law degree from Harvard University in 1997.
On its website, the MBA reflected on its Law Day theme, writing that, “free speech and free press are prominent topics in public discourse and litigation. It is impossible to imagine a free society without these individual liberties, yet historical and current debates surrounding them continually challenge us to consider their boundaries and resilience.”
Students left the lecture with numerous questions about how specific Supreme Court rulings impact today’s free press and media. Notable cases that drew significant interest included Near v. Minnesota (1931), New York Times Co v. Sullivan (1964), and Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts (1965).
“I thought reading the cases taught us what to expect when studying law,” said Sean Donohue, a junior in Mr. Callahan’s U.S. History class.
“Being able to debate different elements of the Constitution and understand the delicate balance between the Bill of Rights really got me to engage with the material in a way I never thought I would before.”