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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.

Recent Activities

Scholarship and national prominence:  Professor Balkin recently published the following books: Living Originalism(Harvard University Press, 2012) and Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World (Harvard University Press, 2011).  Called “the best and most important work in constitutional theory since Dworkin’s Law’s Empire,” Living Originalism has received widespread public recognition.  Constitutional Redemption was recently the focus of a symposium published by the Maryland Law Review, featuring responses to Professor Balkin’s thesis by Lani Guinier, Jamal Greene, Mark Graber, and others.

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.

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.

Question and Answer with Knight Chair

Name one experiment or idea (a tool, an approach, a book) in journalism, journalism education or media innovation that is “out there” -- pushing the frontier. Why do you think that project is interesting? Add detail if you plan to incorporate it in your teaching ?

The big transformation today is digital online education. Although most of the focus—and the debate--has been on massive open online courses, (MOOC’s), the innovations to watch for may come from small private online courses, (SPOC’s), which leverage the intimacy of the seminar or small lecture class with all of the different affordances of digital media.  Online education will revolutionize teaching, but it may not do so in precisely the way that people currently either imagine or fear.

Social media is not just a distribution or promotional platform. Tweets like, “Read the story I just wrote!” are a minority of successful Twitter communications. How do you teach your students to use social media to engage ?

All ISP conferences and most ISP events have active twitter feeds, which broadcast what we are doing to the world and well as providing audiences with links to relevant legal materials and reports.