A First Amendment advocate's greatest burden can be his own client. Those clients range from the offbeat to the dangerous, from pornographers to neo-Nazis. Yet in standing up for the disreputable client, the free speech advocate stands for one of more cherished freedoms: "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989). As one of the nation's leading First Amendment advocates, Allen Professor Rodney Smolla understands that burden as well as anyone. No doubt he felt it keenly at 10:31 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2002, when he rose before a packed gallery in the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that the First Amendment protects symbolic speech, even when the symbol is as repulsive as a Klansman's burning cross.
John G. Douglass, Smolla Argues Before the Highest Court: Cross-Burning Case Explores Free-Speech Controversy, Richmond Law, Spring 2003 at 6.