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Snyder v. Phelps - Research Paper Example

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Phelps, Sr. et al. (562 U.S. _ (2011) essentially centers on the Free Speech Clause under the First Amendment versus an individuals privacy during a funeral. Westboro Baptist Church, a group known to picket military funerals to convey its belief, picketed at…
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Snyder v. Phelps
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Download file to see previous pages __). The picketers also peacefully displayed the following signs “for about 30 minutes before the funeral began”: ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers,’ ‘Fags Doom Nations,’ ‘America is Doomed,’ ‘Priests Rape Boys,’ and ‘You’re Going to Hell’ (Snyder, 562 U.S. __). These signs were seen by Matthew Snyder’s father (Snyder), while driving to the funeral (Snyder, 562 U.S. __). However, he was only able to learn what was written on the signs when he watched the night news broadcast (Snyder, 562 U.S. __). For this reason, he filed “a diversity action against Phelps, along with those who participated in the picketing—and the church (collectively Westboro) alleging, as relevant here, state tort claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion, and civil conspiracy” (Snyder, 562 U.S. __).
The jury held Westboro liable for millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages, but the District Court reduced the punitive damages award, leaving the verdict intact (Snyder, 562 U.S. __). The Fourth Circuit however reversed such a ruling, stating that since “statements were on matters of public concern, were not provably false, and were expressed solely through hyperbolic rhetoric,” Westboro’s statements were then protected by the First Amendment (Snyder, 562 U.S. __). Hence, this petition for Certiorari by Snyder.
In its decision, the US Court of Appeals sided with the Fourth Circuit and held that Westboros statements were indeed protected by the First Amendment, shielding it from tort liability. First it explained that the Free Speech Clause under the First Amendment can work “as a defense in state tort suits, including suits for intentional infliction of emotional distress” (Snyder, 562 U.S. __). The Court then went on to examine the content of Westboro’s signs, to determine whether it is of public or private ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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