Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The Supreme Court has ruled, 8-1, that the First Amendment protects speakers on matters of public concern, even at funerals. It also held that in the case of Snyder v. Phelps, Mr. Snyder cannot recover for the tort of intrusion into seclusion because the picketers kept away from the actual funeral proceedings themselves.
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. Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 50-51. Whether the First Amendment prohibits holding Westboro liable for its speech in this case turns largely on whether that speech is of public or private concern, as determined by all the circumstances of the case.