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Bonus round-up: Snyder v. Phelps

Today’s oral argument in Snyder v. Phelps generated substantial press and blog coverage.  First One @ One First provides a vivid picture of the scene outside the courthouse.  The Blog of Legal Times also has scenes from the Court.  Reports of what transpired inside are available from the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, USA Today, Wall Street Journal (and its Law Blog), Bloomberg, Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, ABC News, Fox News, Constitutional Law Prof Blog, Associated Press (via the First Amendment Center), Washington Times, CNN, First One @ One First, PBS, and the York Daily Record, which has closely followed this local story.  The transcript is available here.

Few journalists cared to predict the outcome of the case, and several commented on the Court’s struggle to resolve the parties’ strong claims.  In the Atlantic, Garrett Epps attributes that difficulty to the quality of the oral argument, which he characterizes as “two inexperienced pilots sail[ing] into a legal Bermuda Triangle.”  But to David Savage of the Los Angeles Times, the Justices “sounded as though they are inclined to set a limit to the free-speech rule to permit lawsuits against those who target ordinary citizens with especially personal and hurtful attacks.”  On this blog, Lyle Denniston suggests that when the Justices discuss this case on Friday, they may “craft a way to write into the First Amendment a ‘funeral exception’ to the right to speak out in public in outrageous and hurtful ways.”  Tony Mauro of Supreme Court Insider expects the opposite, reporting that “some Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed reluctant to upset First Amendment precedents that protect even the most obnoxious speech from punishment.”  In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick suggests that “at least a few of the justices really, really, really just hate the Phelps family and its manner of protest, and they might even be willing to whip up a little new First Amendment law to prove it.”  And at her Crossroads blog for CBS News, Jan Crawford opines that after today’s argument it is clear that “Justice Alito has emerged as the Court’s most insightful and strategic questioner.”


  • ABC News interviews K. Ryan Jones, a University of Kansas student who has made a documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church.
  • And finally, the Washington Post has coverage of the competing news conferences that followed today’s argument.