In new book, Easton focuses on free-speech lawyer Gilbert Roe

Eric Easton

Professor Emeritus Eric Easton

Professor Emeritus Eric Easton’s new book, Defending the Masses: A Progressive Lawyer’s Battles for Free Speech, was published this month by the University of Wisconsin Press.

See the book’s Amazon page here.

Easton, the editor of UB’s Journal of Media Law and Ethics, writes about Gilbert Roe, the principal free-speech lawyer of the early 20th century whose cases involved activists including Emma Goldman, Lincoln Steffens, Margaret Sanger, Max Eastman, Upton Sinclair, John Reed and Eugene Debs, as well as the socialist magazine The Masses and the New York City Teachers Union.

Roe was a friend of Wisconsin Sen. Robert La Follette’s since the two were law partners as young men, and he defended “Fighting Bob” when the Senate tried to expel La Follette for opposing America’s entry into World War I.

A promotion from the University of Wisconsin Press reads: “In articulating Americans’ fundamental right to free expression against charges of obscenity, libel, espionage, sedition or conspiracy during turbulent times, Roe was rarely successful in the courts. But his battles illuminate the evolution of free speech doctrine and practice in an era when it was under heavy assault. His greatest victory, the 1917 decision by Judge Learned Hand in The Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten, is still influential today.”

Easton, also the author of Mobilizing the Press: Defending the First Amendment in the Supreme Court, retired as a full-time professor of law at UB in 2017. Learn more about him here.

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