Thursday, April 1, 2010

Snyder v. Phelps

I gave a press interview for this story in Stars and Stripes about Snyder v. Phelps, the funeral protest case pending before the Supreme Court.  The article doesn't address the legal issue before the court -- whether the First Amendment limits imposing tort liability for the protest activities at issue. 

The speech at issue cannot be regulated on any theory that it falls within an illegal content category (threats, incitements, etc.).  Nor is the issue whether the government can regulate the speech because it's offensive (it can't), or because those in the funeral procession are "captive audiences" (they aren't -- indeed in the Snyder case the plaintiff did not see the Westboro protesters on the day of the funeral).  The Supreme Court likely took the case to clarify whether the First Amendment limits the imposition of tort liability where the plaintiff is not a public figure but the speech arguably pertains to a matter of public concern (assuming the speech at issue does pertain to a matter of public concern and not solely to the Snyders' son or the Synders themselves).       

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