Monday, March 08, 2010

Supreme Court Grants Cert. In Westboro Baptist Church Funeral Picketing Case

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning granted certiorari in Snyder v. Phelps, (Docket No. 09-751, March 8, 2010). (Order List.) In the case in which review has been granted, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Westboro Baptist Church and its leaders that a $5 million judgment against them growing out of their picketing of the funeral of Iraq veteran Matthew Snyder violated their free speech rights. Westboro members have gained notoriety for their picketing of veterans' funerals carrying signs attacking America's acceptance of gays. In the case, Snyder's father claimed that the picketing and a related Internet posting amounted to an invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The majority held that defendants' picket signs, while "utterly distasteful," nevertheless involve matters of public concern. The 4th Circuit also held that the signs and Internet postings were merely "imaginative and hyperbolic rhetoric intended to spark debate," and could not be interpreted as verifiable facts about Snyder or his son. (See prior posting.)

UPDATE: Here is the petition for certiorari and the brief in opposition (thanks to SCOTUS blog).