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Student essay on free speech wins judicial contest hosted by Judge Robert Miller

May 24, 2019 By Paul Frangipane

A Brooklyn high school student won the annual Independence of the Judiciary High School Essay Contest held by Appellate Division Justice Robert J. Miller on Monday.

William Lohier won the contest, co-sponsored by the New York City Bar, the Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York and the New York Law Journal.

Given the prompt of “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society,” Lohier wrote on the subject of freedom of speech in private online forums.

The 10 finalists displayed their awards.

“It’s important work and it’s important because I think it helps bring in a new generation of young people to understand the importance of the rule of law,” said Judge Paul Feinman. “We are seeing sometimes that the civil discourse in today’s society is corroding people’s faith in the institutions of government and the judiciary in particular and it’s extremely disturbing to me to see that.”

Feinman said he’s seen young people really understand the way government should work and the importance of protecting the Constitution.

Lohier wrote his essay after one of his Instagram posts highlighting a racist incident at his school was flagged and taken down. He then explored the possibility of regulating the power private companies have on speech, specifically on social media.

Justice Robert Miller opened the event.

“I also think it’s really important that as public discourse moves to private online forums like Facebook, like Instagram, that those are the places where our speech is protected and the really big nebulous companies like Facebook aren’t completely able to control the conversation,” the Stuyvesant High School student said.

All 10 contest finalists were awarded a $100 gift card and an opportunity to intern with a Supreme Court judge in New York this summer.

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Miller has been holding the contest for 10 years and he stressed the difficulty of becoming a finalist.

Judge Paul Feinman addressed the students on the essay prompt subject.

“It’s a rigorous process so if you’re here, congratulations,” Miller told the students.

Other finalists included Ting Ting Chen, Dipita Das, Haley Resnick, Karen Kellieh, Emmanuella Borukh, Rodba Khondoker, Sristhi Bhatie, Katelyn He and Emily Goldberg.

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