Snyder v. Phelps

3

Cite as: 562 U. S. ____ (2011)
Opinion of the Court

The funeral procession passed within 200 to 300 feet of the picket site.  Although Snyder testified that he could see the tops of the picket signs as he drove to the funeral, he did not see what was written on the signs until later that night, while watching a news broadcast covering the event. Id., at 2084–2086.1

B

Snyder filed suit against Phelps, Phelps’s daughters,and the Westboro Baptist Church (collectively Westboro or the church) in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland under that court’s diversity jurisdiction. Snyder alleged five state tort law claims: defamation, publicity given to private life, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion, and civil conspiracy.  Westboro moved for summary judgment contending, in part, that the church’s speech was insulated from liability by the First Amendment.  See 533 F. Supp. 2d 567, 570 (Md. 2008).
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1 A few weeks after the funeral, one of the picketers posted a message on Westboro’s Web site discussing the picketing and containing religiously oriented denunciations of the Snyders, interspersed among lengthy Bible quotations. Snyder discovered the posting, referred to by the parties as the “epic,” during an Internet search for his son’s name. The epic is not properly before us and does not factor in our analysis. Although the epic was submitted to the jury and discussed in the courts below, Snyder never mentioned it in his petition for certiorari.  See Pet. for Cert. i (“Snyder’s claim arose out of Phelps’ intentional acts at Snyder’s son’s funeral” (emphasis added)); this Court’s Rule 14.1(g) (petition must contain statement “setting out the facts material to consideration of the question presented”).  Nor did Snyder respond to the statement in the opposition to certiorari that “[t]hough the epic was asserted as a basis for the claims at trial, the petition . . . appears to be addressing only claims based on the picketing.”  Brief in Opposition 9. Snyder devoted only one paragraph in the argument section of his opening merits brief to the epic.  Given the foregoing and the fact that an Internet posting may raise distinct issues in this context, we decline to consider the epic in deciding this case.  See Ontario v. Quon, 560 U. S. ___, ___ – ___ (2010) (slip op., at 10–12).

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