In this Emerging Issues commentary, Charles W. "Rocky" Rhodes, the
Godwin Ronquillo PC Research Professor and Professor of Law at South
Texas College of Law, discusses the decision of the US Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 130 S. Ct. 2705 (U.S. 2010).
The Court upheld the constitutionality of a federal statute that
criminalizes "knowingly provid[ing] material support or resources to a
foreign terrorist organization" designated by the Secretary of State. He
"The Humanitarian Law Project Court held that, under these
principles, § 2339B(a)(1) was not vague as applied to the plaintiffs'
desired actions. The plaintiffs did not allege that the material-support
statute provided too much enforcement discretion to the government, so
the Court only considered the fair notice question. In contrast to some
earlier decisions that had invalidated entirely subjective standards
that were untethered to a statutory definition or particular context,
including statutes criminalizing 'annoying' conduct or 'indecent'
conduct, Congress here, the Court noted, had intermittently incorporated
definitions of prohibited actions such as 'training' and 'expert advice
or assistance,' narrowing the statute's scope and adding clarity to its
"After rejecting the vagueness challenge, the Court had to consider
the more difficult issue in the case-the appropriate balance between
freedom of speech and the governmental interests at stake. Chief Justice
Roberts' opinion first explained that the issue was more nuanced than
the arguments of either party acknowledged. Contrary to the plaintiffs'
position, the material-support statute did not ban 'pure political
speech,' because the plaintiffs could still engage in independent
advocacy on behalf of the organizations, express their opinions
regarding the organizations, or even join the organizations."
"The Court declared that its holding was narrow, only applying to the
plaintiffs' specific proposals to train and teach foreign terrorist
organizations on peacefully resolving disputes and acquiring relief
through representative bodies. The Court even specified that it was not
suggesting that Congress could apply a similar prohibition on
independent advocacy on behalf of foreign terror organizations, or ban
the material support of domestic terrorist groups."
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Charles W. "Rocky" Rhodes is
the Godwin Ronquillo PC Research Professor and Professor of Law at
South Texas College of Law, where he teaches Constitutional Law, First
Amendment Law, Civil Procedure, State Constitutional Law, and Complex
Litigation. He is the co-author of two LexisNexis textbooks on
constitutional law, Cases and Materials on Constitutional Law and Skills & Values: The First Amendment,
and the author of more than fifteen articles and book chapters on a
wide variety of constitutional and procedural issues. He is a frequent
media commentator, including television and radio appearances on CNN,
NPR's Morning Edition, BBC Radio's World Business News, NPR's Day to
Day, and Bloomberg Radio, along with interviews in newspapers and
magazines across the United States, such as the Washington Post, USA Today, American Lawyer, Dallas Morning News, Washington Times, ABA Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and Houston Chronicle. He earned his undergraduate degree summa cum laude
while on a National Merit Scholarship at Baylor University before
enrolling at Baylor Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Baylor Law Review,
the President's Award recipient as the outstanding third-year student,
and valedictorian of his graduating law school class. Before becoming a
professor, he served as a briefing and staff attorney at the Supreme
Court of Texas, practiced appellate law at a national law firm, and
earned his board certification in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board
of Legal Specialization. Access Charles Rhodes Martindale-Hubbell
profile at martindale.com.