The William J. Brennan, Jr. Defense of Freedom Award was established to honor those whose actions have advanced the cause of freedom of expression. The award serves as a symbol and celebration of the principles of the First Amendment.
It is altogether fitting that this award is given in the name of the Honorable William J. Brennan, Jr., its first recipient. Justice Brennan was more than an impassioned voice for the principles of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment. On the Supreme Court, he was a consensus builder and leader who was able to turn those principles into law. Justice Brennan read the First Amendment broadly, not just to protect the rights of the institutional press, but to guarantee the right of free speech for all Americans. And in over three decades on the Court, he repeatedly wrote his understanding of the Amendment into law in a series of landmark cases that will govern how Americans understand their society and their role in it for years to come.
MLRC's First Amendment Leadership Award honors those individuals who have made stellar contributions to the development of First Amendment law and to the MLRC and other institutions that defend the First Amendment. It is awarded those who are senior status in our ranks, but whose work on behalf of free speech and free press should never be allowed to retire.