The Supreme Court Blog is the only coverage you need on this case. The history of the case is there, and today’s Supreme Court opinion allowing the prayers before council meetings to continue is there.
I may have more comment later on this case but now we can consider this an open forum…
Commentary from my favorite legal blog.
Today, in Snyder vs. Phelps, the Supreme Court ruled that Westboro Baptist Church could protest funerals of members of the armed services. In a case which unites free speech advocates from the Liberty Council to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the hateful church can continue spewing venom at grieving friends and family who have lost dads, sons, and brothers.
The Court wrote:
Held: The First Amendment shields Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case. Pp. 5–15.
(a) The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment can serve as a defense in state tort suits, including suits for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
So no matter how disgusting the speech, if it relates to a matter of public interest, there is special protection. More from the Court:
Whether the First Amendment prohibits holding Westboro li-able for its speech in this case turns largely on whether that speech is of public or private concern, as determined by all the circumstancesof the case. “[S]peech on public issues occupies the ‘ “highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values” ’ and is entitled to special protection.” Connick v. Myers, 461 U. S. 138, 145. Although theboundaries of what constitutes speech on matters of public concern are not well defined, this Court has said that speech is of public con-cern when it can “be fairly considered as relating to any matter of po-litical, social, or other concern to the community,” id., at 146, or when it “is a subject of general interest and of value and concern to thepublic,” San Diego v. Roe, 543 U. S. 77, 83–84. A statement’s argua-bly “inappropriate or controversial character . . . is irrelevant to the question whether it deals with a matter of public concern.” Rankin v. McPherson, 483 U. S. 378, 387. Pp. 5–7.
While a victory for free speech, the decision could hurt the fund raising efforts of far right groups who may have trouble convincing donors that religious speech will soon be penalized because of the gay agenda. If the Supreme Court can uphold Westboro’s claims to free speech, then there is no threat to the nation’s preachers, and advocacy groups.
Read this GetReligion post and ask yourself, what could she possibly mean?
This section of a New York Magazine article out this week is what is at the focus of what should be significant controversy.
Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.
Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.
Roe was decided in the way it was to curb population growth? — “…particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
Which populations would those be, Justice Ginsburg?
And we may never know because the no one writing for a big paper or news outlet (save the UK Telegraph) has picked up this story.
Message to the US Senate: Please ask Sotomayor if she believes Roe was decided in order to help set up Medicaid funding to support aborting certain populations.
Obama announces his SCOTUS pick at 10:15am (est) .
California Supreme Court announces ruling on Prop 8 appeal at 1:00pm (est).
CNN and USA Today is reporting that Obama will nominate Sonia Sotomayor. If true and if confirmed, she will be the first Hispanic justice. She was nominated to the federal bench by George Bush I. Her wikipedia entry already has the news.
Got any other news you want to drop today? I wouldn’t advise it. I think these two stories may push North Korea to #3.
UPDATE: 5/26/09 – Prop 8 is upheld and but 18,000 current same-sex marriages will continue to be recognized. The ruling in .pdf is here.
Yesterday, the Department of Justice filed a waiver with the Supreme Court regarding the petition for writ of certiorari from Philip Berg.
Here is the amended Docket entry:
Title: Philip J. Berg, Petitioner
Barack Obama, et al.
Docketed: October 31, 2008
Lower Ct: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Case Nos.: (08-4340)
~~~Date~~~ ~~~~~~~Proceedings and Orders~~~~~~~~
Oct 30 2008 Petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment filed. (Response due December 1, 2008)
Oct 31 2008 Application (08A391) for an injunction pending disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari, submitted to Justice Souter.
Nov 3 2008 Supplemental brief of applicant Philip J. Berg filed.
Nov 3 2008 Application (08A391) denied by Justice Souter.
Nov 18 2008 Waiver of right of respondents Federal Election Commission, et al. to respond filed.
~~Name~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~Address~~~~~ ~~Phone~~~
Attorneys for Petitioner:
Philip J. Berg 555 Andorra Glen Court, Suite 12 (610) 825-3134
Lafayette Hill, PA 09867
Party name: Philip J. Berg
Attorneys for Respondents:
Gregory G. Garre Solicitor General (202) 514-2217
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Party name: Federal Election Commission, et al.
Nothing about this has appeared on the Berg website. I suspect the Court will eventually deny the petition for certiorari. Here is the waiver:
Note the document says: “The Government hereby waives its right to file a response to the petition in this case, unless requested to do so by the Court.” At this point, SCOTUS has not requested a response, only provided a date by which a response could be filed.