May 6, 2016
Sitting in an office adorned with certificates of academic achievement, Dr. Elizabeth Blakey reviews a press release for the Annual Kenneth S. Devol First Amendment Forum.
“My passion for teaching about free speech at CSUN is to show that the First Amendment is more than a barrier to government regulation,” said Blakey.
She is an assistant professor whose specialty is First Amendment law. Blakey, who came to CSUN in 2012, has found her place in the university’s journalism department.
Blakey, an active member of the California Bar, has practiced intellectual property and media law, representing prestigious clients like Apple Computer, Pixar Animation Studios, and Netscape.
One of her most recent cases was for the Occupy Fresno movement in late 2011, in which government officials were trying to remove protesters from a public park. When Blakey heard of this on the radio, she contacted the protesters, offering to be their attorney. She did the entire case pro bono and successfully obtained an injunction against the county of Fresno, one of only three injunctions in the entire country, she said.
“When people talk about the First Amendment, they often talk about censorship and what we can’t do and how to fight back when the government is engaging in censorship,” Blakey said. “I think that it’s more important to talk about freedom and the freedom we have.”
In addition to her legal works, Blakey is also the chair of the First Amendment Forum, an annual event that she has organized since 2013. These forums look into different aspects of the First Amendment, and have included topics like police brutality, copyright and fair use, and the reporter’s shield.
In addition to having an in-person panel that consists of students and faculty alike, Blakey includes an outside speaker via Skype.
This year’s forum emphasized on social media and hashtag activism and how “slacktivists” are inciting social change.
“The ways that we can use social media to inspire social change is a platform that is the First Amendment,” Blakey said. “Being more civically engaged and networking across social media platforms in ways that aren’t allowed in other countries in one of our freedoms that the First Amendment provides.”
Along with an accomplished legal career, Blakey has also had a successful journalism career. She previously worked as a website editor for E-Commerce Times and as a staff and freelance writer for the South Bend Tribune.
“I believe in giving students voice,” Blakey said. “Voice is a good way to learn.”
— Katelyn Bebber