Do you be able to sue the U.S. Supreme Court allow an individual who was detained because he made mocking of police via a Facebook account to bring a suit?
The victim, Anthony Novak of Parma, Ohio, is trying to persuade the court to hear his appeal and has enlisted an unorthodox entity to support him by submitting an amicus-brief: The Onion, a satirical news website. The Onion.
You may have noticed, The Onion has built an impressive reputation over years as an aggregator of hilariously funny “fake news” even though it is disguised as a normal news source. The Onion is a jokethe site is the normal news websites However, any person who has read it will realize that this is all just a joke.
There are a few instances where The Onion’s short does use its signature humor-We’ll look at some funny parts later down However, it also offers a more serious observation concerning parody. In Novak’s case, it’s all about comedy.
At the age of 27, in the year 2016, Novak apparently just wanted to play around with his friends by creating an unnamed Facebook page which made fun of the police in the area. If you think that’s something that is considered to be freedom of expression within the U.S., you’re probably correct. The Facebook page, however, was different in that it was an imitation of the Police Department of Parma’s official Facebook page. The design was similar but the content was completely different.
One of the articles included police providing the teens an abortion experiment inside police vans. One post said that police will apply an act that would make it illegal to helping homeless individuals by offering their food, as the law’s objective was to motivate homeless people “to abandon our city to avoid starvation.” A third said that the police will offer a test for police officers “but will strongly urge minorities not to take the exam.”
The police did not seem to be impressed. They issued a warning regarding the website and an assurance that they will locate the culprit. In the face of pressure, Novak took down the website within 12 hours of the time the site was put up.
The authorities believed this fake Facebook page was in violation of a law and was in breach of state law banning the use computers to “disrupt” the police. They tracked down Novak after executing the search warrant through Facebook. The police arrested him and detained the man for four days. They then charged him with violating the law regarding disruption of police service, which is an offense that is punishable by an maximum punishment that is 18 months of prison.
A jury decided Novak in no way guilty of breaking the state’s law. However, Novak wasn’t done. He sought to sue seven officers for infringing on the First Amendment right to free speech. He also claimed that the law he was accused with violating was “unconstitutionally broad” that gave officers “unfettered power” to detain Ohioans to exercise free speech.
This year but this year, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that the officials are protected by qualified immunity. This is a defense against liability, when they violate “clearly accepted statutes.”
Looking for Certification by the Supreme Court Cert
The Institute for Justice, a non-profit public interest law firm that is libertarian was able to assist Novak and to petition to the Supreme Court to take up the matter by asking two issues:
- Does an officer have the right to qualified immunity when he or she arrests one based only on the content of a speech parodizing the state?
- Do we need to review the concept that qualifies immunity as a whole?
We are now at The Onion.
The lawyer of Novak Patrick Jaicomo, contacted The Onion’s managing editor Jordan LaFlure to ask how he could assist. LaFlure agreed to help as the ruling of the 6th Circuit could result in The Onion may be at greater risks if any of its mock-stories rubbed someone incorrect way.
The job of writing the amicus document (or at least the initial draft was handed to chief author Mike Gillis. Lawyers then completed the remainder.
“Americans are liable to be put in jail for laughing on the government? This came as a shock to Americans’ Finest News Source and an unpleasant learning curve for the editorial staff,” the brief opens.
Usually, amicus briefs attempt to establish credibility and credentials before tackling their arguments This is exactly the case with The Onion does here in their own distinctive style.
“Rising from modest beginnings as a printing newspaper in 1756. The Onion now enjoys a daily circulation of 4.3 trillion. It has evolved to become the most formidable and influential company in time.”
A majority of the humor is serious and makes the case, in several ways it is a classic and time-honored practice:
- Since parody in turn mimics “the authentic thing” it has an unique ability to criticize it.
- The sane reader does not need exclusions in order to recognize the difference between parody and parody.
- It is “obvious” the fact that parodists can’t be charged for making an absurd joke while keeping the straightest of faces.
However, since it’s The Onion, it is full of comedy. The Onion promised to bring you humorous bits which we have delivered three of them:
- The Onion is famous for its Latin motto that reads, Tu stultus,meaning “you are dumb.” One of the reasons the brief refers to it is the fact that “The Onion knows that the federal judiciary is run by complete Latin people.”
- A warning of dangers in the event that people aren’t aware of the humor: In 2012 Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana “believed that he had to alert his constituents to an alarming increase in the pro-choice movement, after the headline in The Onion “Planned Parenthood opens $8 billion Abortionplex.'”
- “The Onion intends to continue its important social role by in bringing sunlight’s disinfectant in the rooms of power. … and it will greatly prefer that sunshine should not be measured by its authors in 15 minute increments within an exercise area.”
It’s likely that justices will decide this decision. If they decide to then we’re eager to see The Onion’s story.
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