Rethinking Judicial Attitudes Toward Freedom of Association Challenges to Teen Curfews: The First Amendment Exception Explored
Circuit court decisions in the cases of Qutb v. Strauss and Hutchins v. District of Columbia signal a change in judicial attitude towards associational challenges to teen curfews: If a curfew contains an exception for activities protected by the First Amendment, then it will not be struck down as unconstitutional for infringing on a teenager’s right to associate. At first blush, a First Amendment exception appears sufficiently protective of a teenager’s right to associate. But as Todd Kaminsky demonstrates in this Note, the exception may in fact not go far enough. Certain activities that fall outside the scope of the exception—most notably, public discussion-are necessary antecedents for activities within the scope of the exception, such as protest. By examining sociological accounts of Freedom Summer, the Velvet Revolution, and other similar movements, he establishes the link between public discussion and protest and brings into sharp relief the negative First Amendment consequences of curtailing public discussion. In addition, he explores how a curfew, even with an exception, may make it more difficult for expressive teen organizations to recruit new members, by reducing the time available for teens to socialize and develop informal social networks. As such, Kaminsky concludes, courts should give due regard to associational challenges and scrutinize carefully teen curfews, despite the inclusion of First Amendment exceptions. Otherwise, courts may inadvertently erode teenagers’ right to associate by choking off the conditions necessary for the vigorous exercise of that right.