Posts Tagged ‘Free Speech’

WHAT HAPPENED:  Plaintiff is a police officer who was disciplined by his job for engaging in political speech.  The speech in question was Plaintiff helping his mother pick up a political sign for her home, when police officers in this City were told not to take any action related to the upcoming political campaign.  When confronted by his job, Plaintiff argued that he was not engaged in political speech but just helping his mom.  This is a perfectly good argument, That is until….

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Lawyers get involved and Plaintiff sues for violating his civil rights through his on-the-ob discipline.  Whereas Plaintiff first argues that he is not engaged in speech to avoid getting punished at work, at trial Plaintiff argues that the punishment violates his Free Speech rights under the First Amendment.  After some general tomfoolery with the trial court level, Plaintiff’s case is dismissed before trial, as the Court held that no reasonable jury could find that defendant engaged in political speech.  That is until….

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THE DECISION: You consider that Plaintiff’s job certainly believed he was engaged in political speech which started this whole mess to begin with.  On a specific level, this case has few ramifications, as the nuances of each side flip-flopping their use of Free Speech as a sword and shield will probably render a decision in this case that is uninteresting and unrelated to political speech and campaign support from government officials.  The more interesting argument is whether or not the government’s mistaken belief that someone engaged in Free Speech should take precedence over what the person speaking actually intended.  If all the stars align, you could get an interesting decision on whether the Free Speech is there to protect the person making the speech or to prevent the government from banning the speech, which would tip the hands of the Court when it comes to this somewhat decisive issue.  That’s probably not going to happen in the final decisions, but an interesting thing to look for in the oral arguments.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR HEFFERNAN:  If your view of the First Amendment includes protecting bad-boy police officers who don’t “play by the rules” and don’t “fit within the system”, like Ole’ Farva from Super Troopers.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR THE CITY OF PATERSON:  If your view of the First Amendment does not include giving free passes to bad-boy police officers who don’t “follow direction” and “obey orders”, like Ole’ Farva from Super Troopers.

Williams-Yulee v. Florida BAR

Posted: May 17, 2015 by beguide in case summaries, Free Speech


WHAT HAPPENED:  Williams-Yulee is a Florida Judge who was sanctioned by the Florida Bar for personally soliciting campaign funds during an election.  Williams-Yulee claimed that the sanctions brought down by the Florida Bar were against the First Amendment of the Constitution, since this was a prohibition against speech and campaign financing.  The Florida Bar argued that Williams-Yulee was permitted to solicit funds but could not do so directly.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: Anytime the government stops someone from saying something, the Court applies a strict scrutiny analysis, in which the Court determines whether or not there is a compelling government interest in prohibiting campaign solicitations by the judge, and then whether Florida’s regulations are narrowly tailored to accomplish that goal.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: The Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Florida Bar.  Judge Roberts wrote the majority opinion which stated that the ruling served a compelling interest of ensuring that Judges appeared impartial to the general public, and that the regulation was narrowly tailored to that goal.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: The decision would stand to either benefit or hinder police work in lieu of current developments in genetics and DNA testing. As science continues to develop regarding our ability to use DNA in connecting or exonerating accused defendants, the King case stood to balance the 4th Amendment against an effective way of linking defendants to crimes.  Other justices wrote opinions arguing that the test was wrong but the result was right, the test was right but the result was wrong, and just general nonsense showing that the Court has very few consistent rules when it comes to campaign financing.

THE GOOD GUYS WON IF YOU: you hate political ads that interrupt your television.

THE BAD GUYS WON IF YOU: you create the ads that interrupt television, in which case, you stink.

WHO WAS RIGHT: This decision was released before the podcast, but even still, Brett and Nazim were totally on point.

WHAT HAPPENED: The Texas DMV started a program where citizens could put any picture they wanted on their license plate. Amidst the truckload of requests for Dallas Cowboy license plates, the Defendants asked to put the Confederate Flag on their license of plate because of course they did. The DMV refused the request, because the flag has connections to racism and slavery, and the following lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, because the ACLU is both the best and worst institution in the American legal system.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: The First Amendment provides freedom of speech to all citizens, although the Supreme Court has permitted the government to make exceptions for when the regulation is content-neutral and based on legitimate government reasons. The issue here is that the content is clearly not content neutral nor supported by a government reason, although once again, the confederate flag is a symbol associated with racism and slavery.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: The practical aspects of this case illustrate the worst sides of First Amendment cases. If the license plate is denied, then Ben Franklin and the founding fathers roll over in their grave as the First Amendment and the law supporting it is almost completely disregarded. If the license plate is allowed to have the confederate flag, this case would allow citizens to pick any horrible image and put it on the back bumper of their car. In this case, the DMV would probably just disregard the entire program, to keep people from exploiting the decision because people are horrible like that.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: No ruling as of yet.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR WALKER AND THE DMV IF YOU: support a totalitarian government that puts regulations on how we think, talk, dress, walk, and/or decorate our license plates.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR THE SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS IF YOU: love bumper stickers, are a Dallas Cowboys fan, and/or the third worst thing that exists in the world right now.

WHO WAS RIGHT: Brett and Nazim both believed that the DMV would prevail here, believing that the license plates were enough of government speech that the Court would put the regulation into a different standard.

Elonis v. United States

Posted: January 10, 2015 by beguide in case summaries

WHAT HAPPENED: Elonis is a criminal defendant who was arrested for making terroristic threats on the internet. Elonis’ threats came in the form of multiple Facebook posts that contained explicit rap lyrics that were related to Elonis’ ex-wife, making Elonis the worst type person to be friends with on Facebook.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: Elonis claims that the charges against him violate his First Amendment rights of free speech, as his underlying criminal charges were decided by jury who were permitted to decide whether or not Elonis had the subjective intent to threaten his wife during the posting of the Facebook posts. The Court is now required to decide whether or not statements made on social media can be criminal actionable even though they are written in a public form and no personal context.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: This decision could either expand or restrict the First Amendment rights of people using the internet. A decision against Elonis could lead law enforcement to seek criminal actions against “internet trolls”, or people who say horrible things on the internet without any fear of repercussions. A decision in favor of Elonis which would allow people to say whatever they want on the internet would basically just preserve the status quo of the internet.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: No ruling as of yet.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR ELONIS IF YOU: Are one of the following horrible groups of people: people who post horrible things on the internet, people who threaten women, people who post gratuitously on the internet, free speech advocates.

YOU SHOULD ROOT AGAINST ELONIS IF YOU: at the end of the day, are just looking for some peace and quiet when you are trying to find out which of the people you went to high school with are bald or fat.

WHO WAS RIGHT: Brett and Nazim both believed that Elonis’ conviction would stand, and both thought that this decision would not be as influential as you may hear on the news once the decision is released.