ABA Legal Fact Check website.





ABA President Hilarie Bass says the site was developed because “there’s so much inaccurate information out there.”

The American Bar Association (ABA) has introduced a legal fact-check website that will help explain the law on specific topics to the public. Called ABA Legal Fact Check, the site provides what the ABA says is nonpartisan and reliable information in answering specific questions, which will “separate legal fact from fiction.”

The site has so far focused on some topics involving current public controversies, such as the legality of hate speech. The ABA hopes the site will become an important resource for the public.

Hilarie Bass, the new ABA president and co-president of Greenberg Traurig, told Legaltech News that Legal Fact Check comes “in response to the amount of public discourse about legal topics. … There’s so much inaccurate information out there.”

The ABA saw that different legal assertions were being articulated and soon become widely disseminated, even though they may include inaccuracies.

The online site uses information from cases, statutes and details from legal precedents so “we can clearly articulate what the law actually is,” Bass said. The site, however, will not interpret the law. So, it will not, for instance, argue whether someone is guilty in a pending case, or apply the law to specific facts, Bass explained.

It is designed to help the public—and the media—develop a more general understanding of the law on specific topics.

When asked if the site comes in response to some of the recent controversies related to President Donald Trump, Bass said it is “less a reaction to him, and more of a reaction to the public discourse that includes inaccurate information to what the law is.”

The topics addressed so far on the website range from hate speech, burning of the American flag, presidential pardons, affirmative action and if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit can be broken up because of its rulings.

Discussion of hate speech, for instance, focuses on the question: What are the limits of the First Amendment? The website points out that “Recent demonstrations of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., have raised questions about whether hateful speech and racist comments are protected by the First Amendment.” It notes how both Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean have made statements that hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment. But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision provides a different stand.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that governments may not restrict speech expressing ideas that offend, most recently in a unanimous 8-0 ruling on June 19, 2017, in Matal v. Tam ,” according to the Legal Fact Check website.

Legal Fact Check went live last week, and since then the response has been “very positive,” Bass said.

She explained too that public education always has been a major focus of the ABA, especially encouraging an understanding of the law and the U.S. Constitution. It helps lawyers to have a more educated public on legal concepts, she added.

The ABA welcomes suggested questions for Legal Fact Check, and the site can be reached via email at legalfactcheck@americanbar.org.