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Westboro Baptist case awaits Fourth Circuit opinion

Jan 11, 2009 Westboro Baptist case awaits Fourth Circuit opinion

First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights. (From the public domain.)

UPDATE: The Fourth Circuit reversed the trial court’s judgment on September 24, 2009.

Last month, the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in a critical appeal by the Westboro Baptist Church and its three members who lost a Maryland federal trial in October 2007 for intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy. I did not continue into the appellate stage from the trial, at which I defended the church and its pastor Fred Phelps; on appeal, the appellants are represented by Margie Phelps.

Here are the briefs in the appeal: Appellants’ brief; Appellee’s brief; and Appellants’ reply brief. In amicus support of reversal are the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. The amicus supporting affirmance is Jeffrey Shulman, who teaches at Georgetown Law School.

Remember, your own free expression rights are less protected if expression you detest is infringed by government, laws, and courts. Jon Katz.

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