Friday, November 28, 2014

The Supreme Court's Christmas list...

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear an even dozen cases in December, running from the mundane to one of broad effect on millions. 

The biggie being Elonis vs. United States: "This will probably be the biggest case in December and focuses on free speech, social media, and federal law.  Elonis was convicted under federal law for making threatening comments against his former girlfriend on Facebook, a social media site.  Federal law prohibits such.  This case centers on whether true intent is required to convict a defendant in these cases.  This originated out of a domestic dispute in which Elonis, in response to that “heartbreak,” posted self-styled rap lyrics that seemed to threaten his ex.  Some such “lyrics” were also reproduced lyrics from actual rap artists, which he credited in his postings.  On some occasions, he noted that the postings were not meant to reflect reality, but were the violent musings of someone working something out online.  His ex apparently felt threatened enough to seek and obtain a restraining order.

This is an interesting free speech case since social media websites are replete with such postings.  The decision must ultimately boil down to the subjective intent of the poster of such rantings.  Obviously, the trial court felt that the postings were, in fact, serious enough to warrant conviction.  But one can see the problems that may ensue and the implications for free speech.  If subjective intent is deemed by the Court not to be a requirement for conviction, the musings of anyone on any social media website or even political blogs could be seen as “threatening” to anyone."
It would seem to me, your friendly host, that if Elonis should lose - and the lower court's finding stand...the millions of rude, unfriendly, and totally meaningless threats posed by pajama clad debaters of all persuasions.......... could be seriously jeopardized!  Where does the 1st Amendment end and the fist hit the nose?
This is the one to watch!

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