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    This page contains Supreme Court rulings -- with summaries of the majority and minority conclusions.

11-SNYDER on Oct 6, 2010

Decided Mar 2, 2011
Case Ruling: SNYDER v. PHELPS
Marine Matthew Snyder was killed in the line of duty in Iraq. On public property about 1000 feet from his funeral service, the Westboro Baptist Church followed its custom of protesting at the funerals of service members with signs condemning both homosexuality and the US for supporting it. Snyder's father has been stricken by a grievous emotional reaction since. He sued the protestors and the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED).

HELD:Delivered by ROBERTS, joined by SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, BREYER & KAGAN

The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment can be a defense, including those for IIED, if speech regards a public, rather than private, concern. The protestor's signs here concerned plainly public matters such as the moral conduct of the US and its citizens, the fate of the nation, homosexuality in the military, and scandals involving the Catholic clergy. The protestors can't be said to have used speech on public issues to cloak an attack on the plaintiff. The protestors chose the location to increase publicity, but this does not mean the speech is less protected.

CONCURRED: BREYER concurs

The State is not always powerless to provide protection, but upholding IIED liability on the protestors here would not serve the State's interest in protecting citizens against severe emotional harm. In this case, the protestors complied with police directions, picketed where it was lawful to do so, and could not be seen from the funeral.

DISSENT: ALITO dissents

The protestors engaged in a personal attack on Snyder's memory through signs implying he was a homosexual, a Catholic, and doomed to hell for these “sins.” The direct nature of this assault on the dead marine and his family were made clear in a subsequent Internet posting directed at Snyder's character and his parents. The First Amendment does not shield these verbal assaults at such an emotionally vulnerable moment.


    Participating counts on VoteMatch question 3. Question 3: Comfortable with same-sex marriage Scores: -2=Strongly oppose; -1=Oppose; 0=neutral; 1=Support; 2=Strongly support.
  • Topic: Civil Rights
  • Headline: 1st Amendment protects church's anti-gay funeral pickets (Score: -1)
  • Headline 2: Anti-gay funeral pickets ok if they follow police directions (Score: 0)
  • Headline 3: Anti-gay funeral pickets intend emotional distress (Score: 1)

    Participating counts on AmericansElect question 7.
  • Headline: 1st Amendment protects church's anti-gay funeral pickets (Answer: A)
  • Headline 2: Anti-gay funeral pickets ok if they follow police directions (Answer: A)
  • Headline 3: Anti-gay funeral pickets intend emotional distress (Answer: B)
  • AmericansElect Quiz Question 7 on Social Issues: When you think about the rights of same-sex couples, which of the following is closest to your personal opinion?
    • A: Same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry or form any kind of civil union
    • B: Same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not to marry in the traditional sense
    • C: Same-sex couples should be allowed to marry legally, with all the same rights as traditional marriages
    • D: Unsure


  • Key for participation codes:
  • Sponsorships: p=sponsored; o=co-sponsored; s=signed
  • Memberships: c=chair; m=member; e=endorsed; f=profiled; s=scored
  • Resolutions: i=introduced; w=wrote; a=adopted
  • Cases: w=wrote; j=joined; d=dissented; c=concurred
  • Surveys: '+' supports; '-' opposes.



Democrats participating in 11-SNYDER

Stephen Breyer w2cUS Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg j1US Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Elena Kagan j1US Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Sonia Sotomayor j1US Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 



Republicans participating in 11-SNYDER

Samuel Alito w3dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Anthony Kennedy j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
John Roberts w1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Antonin Scalia j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Clarence Thomas j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 



Independents participating in 11-SNYDER



Total recorded by OnTheIssues:

Democrats: 4
Republicans: 5
Independents: 0


















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