#MeToo and the First Amendment
Understanding the importance of protecting survivor’s freedom of speech
By: Hannah Olund
Harvey Weinstein’s accusations and the #MeToo movement have taken the United States by storm over the past year. The lawyer who represented Ashley Judd in one of the most controversial cases in Hollywood’s history spoke at the Silha Center on October 18th. Ted Boutrous Jr. spoke about the importance of protecting the First Amendment during this pivotal moment in history. Boutrous decided to represent Judd when she sued Weinstein for defamation after finding out he had purposely sabotaged her career.
Boutrous has spent his career defending media organizations and their freedoms, but now he is focusing on defending the voices of sexual assault survivors. “#MeToo movement is one of the most remarkable First Amendment movements,” Boutrous said. After the #MeToo movement erupted, Boutrous tweeted, “I repeat: I will represent pro bono anyone #Trump sues for exercising their free speech rights. Many other lawyers have offered to join me.” His tweet went viral, and one day, Judd took him up on his offer.
Boutrous is committed to supporting the voices of women speaking up against powerful men who are trying to silence them. He wanted them to know that they would have someone to represent and that they no longer needed to be silenced by their assailants’ threats. Boutrous and Judd believe their case against Weinstein is important because it publicly punishes and deters people from this kind of behavior. “Time is up for that kind of behavior in our country,” Boutrous said.
“We need strong First Amendment protection now more than ever,” Boutrous urged. When the sexual assault allegations were made against candidate Trump, Boutrous said he thought it was ridiculous that a candidate running for president would threaten women for coming out with sexual assault allegations in this way. This sort of behavior has continued to escalate since then. “The #MeToo movement is made of strong people using the first amendment to speak their stories,” and that is what we need today, Boutrous said.