Thursday, November 15, 2007

Post-Trial Motions Filed In Westboro Funeral Picketing Case

In a Baltimore, Maryland federal district court, anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church and its leaders are asking the court to overturn the jury's recent $10.9 million award against them and to stay enforcement of the judgment pending appeal of the case. The verdict came in a suit by the father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by church members. Yesterday's Baltimore Sun reported that the request was made last week in a post-trial motion arguing that the verdict was "the product of passion, prejudice and bias, based specifically and exclusively upon disagreement with defendants' religion." Meanwhile, today's Baltimore Sun reports that in records considered by the jury in assessing damages, Westboro Baptist Church and its three leaders who were sued said that their net worth is just under $1 million. Plaintiff intends to challenge the accuracy of these figures. Financial information will be important as the trial judge considers motions to reduce the jury awards.

UPDATE: In an unusual move, defendants on Nov. 9 also filed a writ of mandamus with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the constitutional questions involved in the case. (AP). It appears unlikely that the Supreme Court will intervene at this early stage. [Thanks to First Amendment Law Prof Blog for the lead.]