Top Legal Experts Announced for Upcoming Free Speech Forum


Luther StraingeThe JSU American Democracy Project has partnered with the Judge Frank Johnson Institute to present a bipartisan Free Speech Forum featuring a panel of noted legal experts on Oct. 3, 6-8 p.m., on the 11th floor of Houston Cole Library. The event is free and open to the public. 

Panelists will include: 

  • Former US Senator and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who successfully argued a free speech case before the US Supreme Court, Lane v. Franks, in 2014.
  • Professor Bryan Fair, a First Amendment law expert at the University of Alabama School of Law and a board member for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • Professor Allen Linken, political science professor who teaches Constitutional law at the University of Alabama and former US Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer.
  • BryanUS District Judge Keith Watkins, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2005, elevated to chief judge in 2011 and assumed senior status in 2019. He is a board member of the Judge Frank Johnson Institute.

The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Lori Owens, chair of the JSU American Democracy Project committee and dean of Honors and Special Programs, and Thomas Rains, executive director of the Judge Frank Johnson Institute. To ensure as many questions are included in the discussion as possible, moderators request questions be pre-submitted anonymously by noon on Sept. 15 for possible inclusion. Suggested topics include:

  • LinkenThe Importance of Free Speech
  • Particular Free Speech Cases
  • Protected and Unprotected Speech
  • Hate Speech or Offensive speech/Paradox of Tolerance
  • Free Speech Rights for Faculty, Staff and Administrators
  • Free Speech Rights for Students
  • Freedom of Speech in the Workplace
  • Self-censorship on Campus or in the Workplace
  • Social Media and Free Speech
  • watkins.jpgFree Speech and Misinformation
  • Safe Spaces
  • Symbolic Speech
  • Trigger warnings
  • Inciteful speech
  • Disruption of Classes and Campus Activities
  • Pronouns and Free Speech
  • Shadow Banning Online

Established in 2007, the American Democracy Project at JSU is a nonpolitical, cooperative effort by students, faculty, staff and administrators to promote community involvement. People from all walks of life are encouraged to work together to further civic interactions, discussions and service opportunities. 

In addition to Dr. Owens, the committee includes Dr. Teresa Reed, English; Dr. Ben Gross, Political Science; Andy Green, Honors and Special Programs; Brady Drake, Honors and Special Programs; Macie Spears, Financial Aid; Kim Westbrooks, Library; Dakota Heathcock, Registrar's Office; Albertha Grant, City of Jacksonville.

To learn more about the American Democracy Project, and to inquire about opportunities to contribute, contact Owens at 256-782-8269 or