3L Shannon Chamberlain Named the Recipient of the Communication and Media Law Student Research Paper Award

The recipient of the Carol Blanck ’70 and Robert Tannehauser ’66 Communication and Media Law Student Research Paper Award for 2023-24 is 3L Shannon Chamberlain. Chamberlain’s paper, Escaping Liability for the “Gravest of Threats”: Expanding Article 1, Section 6 Immunity and Narrowing Brandenburg Incitement, was selected by Roy Gutterman L’00, Director of the Tully Center for Free Speech, Associate Professor at the Newhouse School, and Professor of Law at the College of Law, from papers submitted in the Media and Communications Law class for consideration by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Chamberlain’s paper analyzes the events surrounding the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, focusing on public officials’ use of social media and the implications of Speech or Debate Clause immunity. The article describes the violence, breach of the Capitol, and the involvement of government officials, while examining the history and various interpretations of the Speech or Debate Clause. The paper also highlights inconsistencies in the application of the Brandenburg incitement, referencing Thompson v. Trump, and explores the connections between incitement, First Amendment discussions, and public officials’ platforms. Chamberlain’s paper argues incitement speech should not be protected under the Clause, and asks for government officials to be held accountable for their influence on illegal acts, emphasizing a need to protect democracy.

With a passion for legal research, Chamberlain has worked with Teaching Professor Mary Szto as a research assistant to research the legislative history of late 1800s and early 1900s anti-Asian laws, as well as the recent rise in Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic and the restorative justice that followed. She  also provided research assistance to University Professor David Driesen by examining the political impact of the Massachusetts Government Act, and studied anti-Federalist concerns of tyranny when considering the role of the President within the Constitution. In part due to these experiences, Chamberlain has accepted a post-graduate position with Costello, Cooney & Fearon, PLLC as an associate attorney.

“I have been honored to serve as a Teaching Assistant to Professors Monica Luna and Kristin Walker, and Faculty Assistant to Professor A. Joseph Warburton, and now as Research Assistant to two other faculty.  All these experiences have been tremendously rewarding,” Chamberlain said.

The Carol Blanck ’70 and Robert Tannenhauser ’66 Communication and Media Law Student Research Paper Award program is administered by Professor Gutterman. With the growing need for well-qualified communication law and policy professionals, this award supports law students who write or deliver original research regarding any topic related to mass communication and society by demonstrating excellence in law and journalism.