Published: June 22, 2016

MSU Law trustee funds online free speech resource center

Contact(s): Nancy Costello MSU College of Law office: 734-646-0037

MSU Law’s First Amendment Law Clinic is the only clinical program in the country solely dedicated to the protection of student speech and press rights. Now, a $500,000 donation from leading Michigan attorney and MSU Law Trustee Richard D. McLellan will expand the clinic’s impact nationwide by creating a Free Expression Online Library and Resource Center.

The McLellan Free Expression Online Library will provide answers to legal questions and links to hundreds of sources on topics such as student censorship, invasion of privacy, social media speech, libel and copyright issues. Students across the country will be able to connect with MSU Law’s resources to protect their rights to free speech.

“My own high school experiences taught me the importance of protecting those rights,” McLellan said. “I thought about what I wanted to support with this gift, and I realized, throughout my life, free speech was always a topic I was passionate about. This clinic will give student journalists tools to stand up against unlawful infringement.”

Since 2010, the clinic has trained 5,000 students at 34 Michigan high schools in free speech and press rights, according to Nancy A. Costello, director of the MSU First Amendment Law Clinic. The clinic has helped students gain access to school board meetings, defended students threatened with suspension when they posted comments on social media critical of their schools and has defended student journalists against censorship.

“High school is where young people learn they have free speech rights. They carry that lesson into adulthood to speak out against injustice, and to create change,” Costello said. “The McLellan Online Library will extend the Clinic’s teachings across the country.”

The McLellan Free Expression Online Library will offer guidance at the click of a button to students across the country struggling with free speech issues.

The library is a testament to McLellan’s lifelong advocacy of First Amendment principles. His community leadership spans virtually all areas of public policy. During his time at the Dykema law firm, McLellan served as head of the firm’s Government Policy & Practice Group and as Managing Member of the firm’s Lansing Office. He also served as a special assistant attorney general by appointment of Attorney General Frank J. Kelley, and he has been appointed twice by the Michigan Supreme Court as a Commissioner of the State Bar of Michigan.

“Richard is one of the most intellectually-curious people I’ve ever met,” said Dean Joan Howarth. “He is known for following his own course and speaking his mind, whether it wins him friends or the opposite. It’s no surprise that he reveres the First Amendment.”

MSU Law Trustee Richard D. McLellan (seated, center) is pictured with other MSU Law trustees. Courtesy photo.