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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snyder v. Phelps case brief

Snyder v. Phelps case brief summary
131 S. Ct. 1207

FACTS: 
-Petitioner, father of a marine who was killed in the line of duty, won a jury verdict from defendant protestors, who picketed for about 30 minutes before the funeral began on public land approximately 1,000 feet from the church where the funeral was held. 
-The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the verdict, concluding that the protestors' statements were entitled to First Amendment protection. Certiorari was granted.

ANALYSIS: 
-The content of the protestors' signs plainly related to broad issues of interest to society at large, rather than matters of purely private concern. 
-While the messages may have fallen short of refined social or political commentary, the issues they highlighted--the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens, the fate of the nation, homosexuality in the military, and scandals involving the Catholic clergy--were matters of public import. 
-The context of the speech and its connection with the funeral did not make the speech a matter of private rather than public concern. 
-Simply put, the protestors had the right to be where they were. 
-They alerted local authorities to their funeral protest and fully complied with police guidance on where the picketing could be staged. 
-The picketing was conducted under police supervision some 1,000 feet from the church, out of the sight of those at the church. 
-The protest was not unruly; there was no shouting, profanity, or violence. 
-Any distress occasioned by the picketing turned on the content and viewpoint of the message conveyed, rather than any interference with the funeral itself.

OUTCOME: The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was affirmed. 8-1 Decision; one concurrence; one dissent.

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