Supreme Court Grants Cert. in Snyder v. Phelps

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Snyder v. Phelps, the funeral picketing "God Hates Fags" case involving the kooky Phelpsian Westboro Baptist Church.  Albert Snyder, the father of a U.S. marine killed in Iraq, won a $10.9 million jury verdict for intrusion and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Phelps clan as a result of their picketing his son's funeral carrying offensive, unpatriotic, and antigay messages, as well as their publication of "The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder" on the church's website.

The trial court reduced the jury verdict to $5 million, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the award of damages altogether, holding that the Phelps' speech—while repugnant—is constitutionally protected.  The case raises fascinating questions about whether the intrusion and intentional infliction of emotional distress torts may constitutionally be applied to speech on matters of public concern without creating all sorts of gnarly overbreadth, vagueness, and viewpoint discrimination problems. 

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has several brilliant posts exploring all of this in great detail and with great eloquence. I highly recommend these posts to anyone interested in the First Amendment (or just this crazy case).

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