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3 Important Battles (Speech, Search, Press) Seeking SCOTUS Cert.

By William Peacock, Esq. on September 18, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last term's slate of issues, from voting rights to same-sex marriage, made it one of the most anticipated SCOTUS dockets in recent memory, but the excitement didn't end in June. From certiorari granted to certiorari requested, this upcoming term could prove to be just as important and exciting.

Internet speech, photos of a deceased terrorist, and the collision course between the Fourth Amendment and modern technology are just some of the issues that will keep us debating and discussing constitutional principles through next June.

Venting, Online Speech, and Death Threats

On the surface, this doesn't seem like an easy case. An Iraq War veteran, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and anger issues was allegedly advised by his therapist to vent his feelings about his child custody battle in a song. He did, strumming along while crooning for eight minutes about killing the judge and the lawyers, and lamenting the alleged emotional abuse carried out by his ex-wife towards his daughter.

Franklin Jeffries II's lawyer called it therapeutic. He called it "[c]omedy for the courts," per his cert. petition. The unamused court, however, called it a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c), and imposed an eighteen-month sentence.

"And when I come to court this better be the last time. I'm not kidding at all, I'm making this video public. 'Cause if I have to kill a judge or a lawyer or a woman I don't care."

Wired notes that while eight circuit courts of appeal have applied the "reasonable person" standard to these types of threats, asking whether a "reasonable" person would believe that the speaker was serious, the oft-reversed Ninth Circuit takes into account the subjective intent of the speaker.

Get Your Hands Out of My Pocket ... Computer

Searches incident to lawful arrest or are warrants warranted?

Mother Jones describes two interesting cell phone search cases, with opposite outcomes, that have petitioned for SCOTUS review. In one, Riley v. California, a man was pulled over for expired tags. The police searched his phone, found information about a 2009 gang shooting, and the California Supreme Court upheld the search as lawful.

The other, U.S. v. Wurie, involved the search of a phone during an arrest for a cocaine deal. Officers used information in the phone to find and search his home for additional evidence. The First Circuit held that the search violated the Fourth Amendment.

Bin Laden's Death and Burial

Freedom of the press versus national security. We hear these arguments a lot lately, don't we?

Journalists want access to the photos of Osama Bin Laden's body and burial, and have made such requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The government, however, contends that releasing the inflammatory photos would likely incite violence and anti-American sentiment.

Two lower courts have agreed with the government, reports Wired. Right-wing group Judicial Watch has asked the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in the case, calling the fears of retaliation "speculative."

Have any other upcoming cases that will, or might, be heard during this upcoming term that you'd like us to take a look at? Tweet us @FindLawLP with your suggestions!

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