Following his graduation from the Iowa Law School, Professor Bezanson served as a clerk to Judge Robb of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and, during the 1972 term (1972-73), as a clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court. Following his clerkship with Justice Blackmun, Professor Bezanson joined the faculty of the Iowa Law School, where he remained until 1988, serving also as a vice president of The University of Iowa from 1979-84. In 1988 Professor Bezanson moved to Virginia to become Dean of the Washington & Lee University School of Law. He served as Dean of W & L from 1988 to 1994, returning to the Iowa faculty in the fall of 1996.
Professor Bezanson's teaching centers on constitutional law, freedom of speech and press, and mass communication law, but he also teaches in the fields of administrative law, law and medicine, law and journalism, and torts. He presently teaches Constitutional Law, The First Amendment, and Seminars on Freedom of the Press, the Religion Guarantees, and Law and Technology.
Professor Bezanson's scholarship spans the fields of administrative law, constitutional law, first amendment theory, defamation and privacy law, law and medicine, and the history of freedom of the press. He has published in many law reviews and journals, including the California Law Review, the Illinois Law Journal, the Iowa Law Review, the Vanderbilt Law Review, and the Virginia Law Review.
In 1987 he published, with coauthors Gilbert Cranberg and John Soloski, Libel Law and the Press, Myth and Reality (Free Press, Macmillian), a book that has received wide attention and was given the National Distinguished Service Award for Research in Journalism in 1988 by the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi. His book Reforming Libel Law (Guilford Communication series, 1992), which Professor Bezanson co-edited with John Soloski, Director of the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is used in undergraduate and graduate journalism programs throughout the country. Professor Bezanson's book Taxes on Knowledge in America: Exactions on the Press from Colonial Times to the Present (1994, U. Penn. Press), explores the history of taxation of the press in England and America. His most recent books are Speech Stories: How Free Can Speech Be?, published in 1998 by the New York University Press; Taking Stock: Journalism and the Publicly Traded Newspaper Company (2001), coauthored with Gil Cranberg and John Soloski of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and supported by the Open Society Institute of New York; and How Free Can the Press Be?, published in 2003 by the University of Illinois Press.
Professor Bezanson has been a member of the American Law Institute (ex officio) and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, and has drafted legislation on a broad range of topics, including civil commitment of the mentally ill, treatment of the terminally ill, surrogacy and assisted conception, and defamation and invasion of privacy. He was the Reporter and principal drafter of the Uniform Rights of the Terminally Ill Act (NCCUSL 1985, 1989), the Defamation ACT (NCCUSL 1993), the Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act (NCCUSL 1994), and Iowa's Civil Commitment Law (1975).
Professor Bezanson is a member of the Iowa Bar.
An economic slowdown is no time to shrink the news
COMMENTARY | November 13, 2008
Cranberg and Bezanson write that “the need for information doesn’t contract in step with the economy. The reverse is true; troubled times demand more skilled journalism, more interviews, more probing, bigger newsholes.” Possibly, they suggest, foundations that aren’t ordinarily interested in the press will reconsider their priorities.
What’s to stop a new kind of 'family-owned' newspaper?
COMMENTARY | May 13, 2008
A crime family, that is. It may sound far-fetched but there's nothing preventing it. Freedom of the press means freedom to sell to anyone.
Can the media and the bar get too close for ethical comfort?
COMMENTARY | October 30, 2007
Dan Rather’s suit against CBS is unusual in that his law firm is one of more than 200 that have agreed not to sue news media groups or individuals for libel. Such a policy, write Randall Bezanson and Gilbert Cranberg, is highly questionable. Rather’s lawyers got around it by not couching the suit in terms of libel. But what about the policy itself?
What Nelson Poynter can teach the Bancrofts
COMMENTARY | June 14, 2007
Shouldn’t the standards of news media ownership, as spelled out by Poynter in 1947, apply today? For starters, those standards include looking at a media property as a sacred trust and a great privilege.
What's at stake in the Times's 2-tier stock battle
COMMENTARY | April 26, 2007
Bezanson and Cranberg say newspapers miscalculated in going public but that relinquishing family voting control, as big investors want, would be bad for readers and for the fabric of democracy.
Memo to Sam Zell: Keep in mind that your main product is news
COMMENTARY | April 03, 2007
Gilbert Cranberg and Randall Bezanson offer a reminder to the billionaire who has just bought into the Tribune Corp. that newspapers are unlike other businesses.
Staff cuts may make owners vulnerable in libel cases
COMMENTARY | September 15, 2006
What will the courts say when litigants argue that news organization chieftains got rid of experienced staffers and put in place a rawer, under-trained newsroom, knowingly making the product more error-prone?
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