October 4, 2022 by Tom Roberts, Esq.
Lawyers representing the Onion were held in contempt, imprisoned and water-boarded for writing a lengthy but brilliant amicus brief in support of a petition for certiorari in favor of a fellow humorist imprisoned for failing to provide a disclosure that his facebook page was intended as a parody. Humorist Novak filed suit for violation of the 1st Amendment by Parma police officers and others. The defendants escaped liability for 1st Amendment violations based upon qualified immunity.
US Supreme Court rejected the Appeal Petition of Novak - the Facebook satirist.
Satire took a hit today, 2/21/2023 as the U.S. Supreme Court failed to accept the petition for appeal of Anthony Novak who created a parody of Parma Ohio Police Department on Facebook. He was arrested and jailed for his parody – but acquitted at trial. He should never have been arrested and jailed — the police escape being held to account for their actions by the shield of “Qualified Immunity”. Qualified immunity protects police officers from being held accountable for depriving individuals of their constitutional rights if the officers reasonably believed that they were acting within the law. The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said that since no prior court held it to be a violation of the Constitution to be arrested in retaliation for satirical remarks in a situation where officers have probable cause, the case was dismissed. Novak was charged under state law that criminalized “disruption of police operations.” That was a joke. But this is no joke – Qualified immunity must be abolished!!
Petitioner Anthony Novak created a parody Facebook page to mock his local police department in Parma, Ohio. Novak published six posts on the page, deriding the department through obvious parody. For his speech, respondents searched, seized, jailed, and prosecuted Novak for a felony under a broadly written Ohio law prohibiting the use of a computer to “disrupt” or “interrupt” police functions. A jury acquitted Novak after trial. When Novak sued for the violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights, the Sixth Circuit found that there was probable cause to believe Novak’s protected speech was criminal and held, joining a growing circuit split, that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity for their violation of Novak’s rights.
The questions presented are:
1. Whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity for arresting an individual based solely on speech parodying the government, so long as no case has previously held the particular speech is protected.
2. Whether the Court should reconsider the doctrine of qualified immunity.
Parma Police Department
5555 Powers Blvd
Sitting on 20 square miles, Parma’s population is shrinking.
At its peak in 1990 its population was 87,650. Its population has shrunk by 8.7 % since 1990 while with 200 police and court personnel its police officers and staff has nearly doubled since 1970 when it had 80 officers, 19 civilians and 24 full time court personnel.
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