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Jack M. Balkin

Knight Professorship in Constitutional Law and First Amendment
Yale University
New Haven, CT
Personal Website


Jack Balkin’s blogs and widely read opinion pieces explore the frontiers of First Amendment and constitutional law.


Jack M. Balkin is a member of the Law School faculty and an expert in constitutional law, the First Amendment, telecommunications and cyberspace. His blog, Balkinization, is located at and his associated website appears at

Grant Background

The Knight Professor would focus on the constitutional study of communication and would incorporate traditional First Amendment scholarship. It also would address emerging issues presented by the new communications technology. The Knight Professorship holder would assume not only a prominent position in the law school but also throughout the university, serving as an important link to other university schools and departments. The Knight Professor would be called upon to participate in a variety of national symposia and conferences and thereby have a strong impact on public discourse of important constitutional issues. The Knight Professor would be a valued colleague and intellectual mentor to the journalism fellows who spend an intensive academic year at the law school. The presence of the Knight Professor would enrich the program and the quality of the fellows’ experience.

Scholarship and national prominence

Professor Balkin’s two books, Living Originalism (Harvard University Press, 2011) and Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World (Harvard University Press, 2011), continue to draw attention.  The two books have been the subject of five published academic symposia (including one in Israel), as well as an online symposium, and have been the subject of over a dozen reviews.  Professor Balkin has continued to publish articles on the use of history in legal interpretation.  He was also invited to contribute to a Harvard Law Review symposium on Freedom of the Press commemorating the 50th anniversary of New York Times v. Sullivan.

Intellectual mentorship

Professor Balkin has continued to oversee both the Knight Law and Media Program and the Information Society Project (ISP) at YLS.  The Knight Law and Media Program sponsors events for journalists, media leaders, scholars, and the interested public, and organizes a well-attended lecture series. The Program counts among its ranks nearly 20 Knight Scholars, all current JD students.  The ISP sponsors multiple events each year on the intersections between law, technology, and society and supports approximately 20 Visiting Fellows and 14 Resident Fellows on an annual basis.  2014 also saw the inauguration of the Floyd Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression, which Professor Balkin directs.

Litigation and Advocacy

Professor Balkin co-directs the Media Freedom and Information Access clinic at Yale Law School, which litigates cases involving press freedom and freedom of information.  During this past year, the Media Freedom clinic joined with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to request that the secret court charged with overseeing government surveillance in national security cases make public its opinions on Section 215 of the Patriot Act— the statute that has been at the heart of the current NSA controversy.   Professor Balkin also directs the Information Society Project, which this year has filed amicus briefs on issues ranging from the Fourth Amendment implications of GPS tracking devices to the patentability of genes.

•       Give us an example of a media company or organization that you see doing innovative journalism with impact. How do you use this example in your teaching?

I don't teach journalism, but I am particularly interested in the development of explanatory journalism (Vox, TheUpShot, FiveThirtyEight), as well as related projects like the Princeton Electoral Consortium.  Each of these is a different model and it will be interesting to see which of them succeeds best.

•       Internet surveillance, freedom and privacy have become central concerns for those journalists in the digital age. What are you teaching your students about those topics?

The Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic works regularly on these issues; I teach about them in my classes on the First Amendment, and in my class on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and the Law.  The Information Society Project, the Knight Law and Media Program, and the Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression have sponsored numerous events on these topics in the past year.