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Snyder v. Phelps

Docket No.: 09-751
Certiorari Granted: 03/08/10
Argued: October 6, 2010
Decided: 03/02/11


First Amendment, First Amendment, privacy

PartyNames: Albert Snyder v. Fred W. Phelps, Sr., et al.
Petitioner: Albert Snyder
Respondent: Fred W. Phelps, Sr., et al.

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Citation: 580 F.3d 206
Supreme Court Docket

Albert Snyder
Fred W. Phelps, Sr., et al.

The Fourth Circuit reversed a jury determination in favor of Albert Snyder ("Snyder") for the intentional harm perpetrated against him by Fred W. Phelps, Sr., Westboro Baptist Church, Incorporated, Rebekah A. Phelps-Davis and Shirley L. Phelps-Roper (collectively, "Phelps"). Snyder's claim arose out of Phelps' intentional acts at Snyder's son's funeral. Specifically the claims were: (1) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (2) invasion of privacy and (3) civil conspiracy. These claims were dismissed by the Fourth Circuit notwithstanding that (a) Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell does not apply to private versus private individuals; (b) Snyder was a "captive" audience; (c) Phelps specifically targeted Snyder and his family; (d) Snyder proved that he was intentionally harmed by clear and convincing evidence; 1 and (e) Phelps disrupted Snyder's mourning process. The Fourth Circuit's decision gives no credence to Snyder's personal stake in honoring and mourning his son and ignores Snyder's right to bury his son with dignity and respect. Three questions are presented:

Question Presented:

1. Does Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell apply to a private person versus another private person concerning a private matter? 2. Does the First Amendment's freedom of speech tenet trump the First Amendment's freedom of religion and peaceful assembly? 3. Does an individual attending a family member's funeral constitute a captive audience who is entitled to state protection from unwanted communication? 1 Because Snyder sought punitive damages, he was required to prove his case by clear and convincing evidence. Furthermore, Snyder was required to prove actual malice. Snyder carried his burden on both issues. ^


Does the First Amendment protect protesters at a funeral from liability for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the family of the deceased?

Snyder v. Phelps


Listen to Oral Argument in Snyder v. Phelps
Holding: affirmed
Vote: 8-1

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Snyder v. Phelps
Case Documents

1Snyder v. Phelps Oral Argument Transcript (HTML)
2Opinion in Snyder v. Phelps
3Snyder v. Phelps Oral Argument Transcript (HTML)
4Opinion in Snyder v. Phelps
5Snyder v. Phelps Oral Argument Audio
6Snyder v. Phelps Oral Argument Audio
Additional documents for this case are pending review.