When Ethan Sabo reached out to the First Amendment Center (FAC) operated by the SMU Dedman School of Law asking if they represented conservative causes, he got no response.
Sabo, who founded a group of advocates called Mission DFW, regularly exercises his first amendment rights.
“If they’re giving out free legal counsel, maybe I should be given representation too,” Sabo told The Dallas Express. “Why won’t they answer what is a very basic question? There used to be principled liberals who defended free speech whether they agreed with it or not.”
Mission DFW’s website states that its purpose is to hold “woke” corporations, politicians, journalists, and citizen groups accountable for engaging in “woke politics.”
According to media reports, woke is the state of being awakened to sensitive social issues, such as discrimination, transgenderism, and police brutality.
“If the SMU First Amendment Center is only representing leftists, then SMU’s conservative donors should think twice about writing another check,” Sabo said in an interview.
SMU Dedman School of Law launched FAC in the fall of 2020 after receiving a $900,000 gift from the Stanton Foundation. Frank Stanton, former president of CBS, founded the Stanton Foundation.
Among the alleged “leftists” that lawyers affiliated with SMU FAC are defending are local freelancer Steven Monacelli and Dallas Weekly, both of whom Dallas Express Media (the non-profit ownership group that owns The Dallas Express) has sued for defamation.
Vinson & Elkins’ Tom Leatherbury is the director of FAC, but he did not respond to requests for comment.
It’s unclear whether Vinson & Elkins fully supports only representing “left-of-center” individuals and organizations or if they just decline to comment.
“Organizations like the ACLU would routinely defend the rights of everyone—including conservatives to speak freely in our society,” Sabo added. “Those old school JFK liberals are nowhere to be found. Instead, under the guise of representing free speech, many of these groups are instead vehicles for leftists to support other leftists tax-free.”
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, Monacelli accused the nonprofit Dallas Justice Now (DJN) of being a ‘fake’ social justice organization in a July 28 article that went viral. He questioned whether DJN leaders even exist after they refused Monacelli an interview.
Regarding why FAC is representing “liberal causes” and “leftists,” only Mark Chancey, professor of Religious Studies at the Dedman College of Humanities, responded to a request for comment.
“I have had no contact with this new clinic and thus can provide no information or comment,” Chancey told The Dallas Express in an email.
The Stanton Foundation funding is earmarked to cover the FAC’s core operating expenses for five years, according to a statement online.