Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Justice Alito doesn't like the First Amendment

He was the lone dissenter in the crush video case. And now he is the lone dissenter in the funeral protester case:

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment protects fundamentalist church members who mount anti-gay protests outside military funerals, despite the pain they cause grieving families.

The court voted 8-1 in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. The decision upheld an appeals court ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment to the father of a dead Marine who sued church members after they picketed his son's funeral.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court. Justice Samuel Alito dissented.

Roberts said free speech rights in the First Amendment shield the funeral protesters, noting that they obeyed police directions and were 1,000 feet from the church.

"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and - as it did here - inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker," Roberts said. "As a nation we have chosen a different course - to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."

Alito strongly disagreed. "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case," he said.

Maybe the title to the post is too harsh... Justice Alito did side with corporate First Amendment rights.

In other SCOTUS news, the Court again reiterated that judges weren't tied to the guidelines, even on resentencing cases. In Pepper v. United States, Justice Sotomayor explained that a resentencing court could take into account post-sentencing rehabilitation. Doug Berman has more at his blog, but it is worth pointing out that the Court made sure to reiterate to district courts that there are times that the guidelines are based on "wholly unconvincing policy rationales not reflected in the sentencing statutes Congress enacted."

In other news, give your thoughts on Magistrate Judge Hopkins.


Shena said...

Lot of folks might disagree, but I think the Supreme Court got it right on this.

Anonymous said...

J. Alito is just plain wrong, and Robert's opinion is spot on.

Anonymous said...

To all the free speech advocates, try saying anything like the Phelps diatribe to a judge, or put it in a pleading, and see how far you get. Sanctions? Contempt? Disbarment?

When the SCOTUS allows free speech in a courtroom or pleading, no matter how hateful, I’ll buy the free speech argument. Otherwise this is little more than government sanctioned desecration of a US serviceman and his family during a funeral. Thanks Justice Alito!

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