The United States Court rejected a petition we filed on behalf of Alex Jones of Infowars today. It signals yet again that the Court is ripe to consider recognizing a hate speech exception to the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.
When Mr. Jones offered a reward on his widely broadcast show "Infowars" for the identity of the person or persons who sent his studio child pornography via the Internet, he raised a question about whether counsel opposing him in litigation were involved. He never accused anyone of sending the material. His speech was angry and emotional.
The plaintiffs lawyers ran to the trial court asking for sanctions. The court obliged, refusing to hear Mr. Jones's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. When Mr. Jones took an appeal of that ruling to the State Supreme Court, that court upheld the trial court, deciding the case on issues never briefed by the parties. Mr. Jones turned to the U.S. Supreme Court for relief.
At issue was the following: Can a judge in a case involving a party to civil litigation sanction the litigant for speech that violates no law or court order.?The answer should have been simple: No court can abridge freedom of speech. Mr. Jones threatened no one, incited no one to violence, engaged in no fighting words, defamation or criminal conduct.
This shocking lack of action by the U.S. Supreme Court suggests that the court is wiling to permit silencing unpopular voices saying unpopular things. This podcast discusses how the Court might construct a hate speech exception to freedom of speech.
Query: What scares you more? Speech you can ignore, or the censor who decides what you can see?