Fake News? ABA’s Legal Fact Check Turns to the Law to Get at the Truth

If Alabama Republican Roy Moore wins today’s special election for the U.S. Senate, will Congress have to seat him?

The answer to that and many other pressing questions in the news is provided by ABA Legal Fact Check, a website launched last August as one of the initiatives of this year’s ABA president, Hilarie Bass.

Its purpose is to provide the public with dependable answers to legal questions raised by current events and news stories. The site uses case law, statutes, and other legal precedents “to separate legal fact from fiction.”

“In a world with multiple sources of information, it is often difficult to distinguish between fact and opinion,” Bass said when the site first launced. “Through our new ABA Legal Fact Check, the American Bar Association will use case and statutory law and other legal precedents to help set the record straight by providing the real facts about the law.”

Among the questions answered so far on the site:

  • Is hate speech protected by the First Amendment?
  • When does a holiday display cross the boundary into religious speech?
  • Can someone be punished for burning the American flag?
  • Can employers force workers to stand during the national anthem?
  • How should trials be handled for non-citizen terrorists?
  • What is the government’s power to order mandatory evacuations in the face of a disaster?

As for that question about Moore, ABA Legal Fact Check answers that the Senate must seat him if he wins.

“But the Constitution does permit the Senate (as well as the House) to censure and expel members, even shortly after they take a seat,” the site adds. “That seldom happens, however, and hasn’t occurred in the Senate since the Civil War.”