Friday, March 1, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS An Indiana man imprisoned for online rants against the judge who handled his divorce is at the center of a legal debate over whether his blog went beyond the limits of protected free speech.
Supporters ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative lawyer behind the U.S. Supreme Courts landmark 2010 campaign finance law ruling have filed briefs asking Indianas top court to review a lower court ruling that upheld Dan Brewingtons 2011 conviction for intimidation.
Although Brewingtons blog included references to arson and beatings, Brewington said he didnt mean for them to be taken literally, and his supporters say the real issue is a state law that could potentially make harsh criticism a crime.
Brewingtons attorney, Michael Sutherlin, who filed paperwork last month asking the state Supreme Court to review the case, said Friday that Brewingtons conviction was based on an Indiana statute that makes it against the law just to threaten to expose a person to public contempt or disgrace.
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who runs a legal blog, said if Brewingtons conviction is allowed to stand, it could endanger citizens rights to criticize public officials, businesses and others.
If somebody threatens expressly or implicitly to criticize someone, then under this precedent, regardless of whether theres even any whiff of potential for violence, there would be no First Amendment defense and this person could be prosecuted, he said.
Volokh filed friend of the court briefs along with the conservative Eagle Forum, constitutional scholars, the ACLU and the James Madison Center for Free Speech, represented by Republican lawyer James Bopp.
Theyd never have a beer together, probably, Sutherlin said of the disparate groups.
The dispute started when the judge in Brewingtons divorce case ordered him to undergo a mental evaluation before considering giving him visitation rights to his children. A psychologist said he believed Brewington was potentially violent.
Read the rest here:
Indiana blogger at center of free speech fight