Snyder v Phelps

Snyder v Phelps - Professor Maxey ARE18 March 15, 2011...

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Professor Maxey ARE18 March 15, 2011 Snyder v. Phelps Case       I. Case History A. For the past 20 years Congregation from the Westboro Baptist Church picketed  military funerals to show that God hates the U.S. for tolerating homosexuality.  i. The founder of the church, Fred Phelps and 6 Westboro Baptist parishioners  picketed the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, killed in Iraq  during line of duty.  ii. Picketing took place on public land, 1000 feet away from where funeral took  place.  iii. Snyder’s father filed a diversity action against Phelps and the church alleging  intentional infliction of emotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion and civil  conspiracy.  iv. A jury held Westboro liable for millions of dollars in compensatory and  punitive damages.  v. Westboro challenged the verdict as grossly excessive and sought judgment  as a matter of law on the grounds that the First amendment fully protected its  speech.  vi. The district court reduced the punitive damages award but left the verdict  otherwise intact. B. The First Amendment shields Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case. i. The free speech clause of the First amendment serves as a defense in state  tort suits  including suits for intentional infliction of emotional distress. ii. Although the boundaries of  what constitutes speech on matters of public  concern are not well defined, this Court has said that speech is of public  concern when it can “be fairly considered as relating to any matter of political,  social, or other concern to the community,” or when it “is a subject of general  interest and of value and concern to the public. 
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This note was uploaded on 01/17/2012 for the course ARE 18 taught by Professor Maxey during the Winter '08 term at UC Davis.

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Snyder v Phelps - Professor Maxey ARE18 March 15, 2011...

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