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Snippets: Lyrical Threats, SSM Victors Want Cert., SCOTUS <3 Cops

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Today's all about the music: rap lyrics as threats, the final countdown for same-sex marriage advocates, and cops facing the music in court (or not). Here are today's three selections for our SCOTUS roundup:

  • If a man writes criminal threats in the form of rap lyrics, is he actually making those threats, or is he simply doing what most rapper do: writing over-the-top, violent boasts over beats?
  • In a rare case of a victorious party supporting certiorari, same-sex marriage plaintiffs, who are undefeated in federal courts, are asking the Supreme Court to take the case anyway.
  • UC Erwin Irvine Dean Erwin Chemerinsky outlines the numerous ways in which the Supreme Court has made it virtually impossible to hold police officers, such as the one who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, accountable in a civil lawsuit.

Dropping Bars and Bodies III: More Lyrical Convictions

Rap lyrics and the law is a favorite topic of mine: twice before we've discussed the admissibility of rap lyrics as evidence against a defendant.

Ars Technica has an interesting piece on a case that the Court will hear this term: Anthony Elonis' 2010 Facebook rants/lyrics/threats. Elonis is serving four-year prison term for making threats against elementary schools:

That's it, I've had about enough

I'm checking out and making a name for myself

Enough elementary schools in a ten mile radius

to initiate the most heinous school shooting ever imagined

And hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a kindergarten class

The only question is . . . which one?

Elonis' attorneys are claiming that the lyrics were a reference to Eminem's lyrics, circa-2000:

I'll take seven [kids] from [Columbine]

Add an AK-47, a revolver, a nine

a MAC-11 and it oughta solve the problem of mine

and that's a whole school of bullies shot up all at one time

Cause (I'mmmm) Shady, they call me as crazy

as the world was over this whole Y2K thing.

Rap Genius has a more thorough explanation of Eminem's lyrics. The rapper recently referenced those two bracketed words, which were censored even in the explicit version of the album, in one of his latest hits: "Rap God."

As Ars notes, an 8-1 circuit split has formed over whether the government must prove that the person making the threats actually intended to carry them out, with only one court recognizing such a requirement.

Final Countdown for Marriage Equality SCOTUS Showdown?

The winning plaintiffs in the three same-sex marriage cases floating in the Supreme Court's cert. pool all agree: the Court should take the case.

Why are the victors supporting cert.? According to The Washington Post's recap of today's filings, the plaintiffs argue that they "still face the intolerable prospect that their marriages will not be recognized should they travel or relocate to one of those other states."

Plus, the Court has issued stays in the cases pending resolution of the cert. question or the merits -- whichever happens first. By filing their documents early, the plaintiffs hope that the Court will act on the cert. petitions as quickly as possible. The Court's first conference is set for September 29.

SCOTUS Loves Cops

As lawyers, we know that it is difficult, if not impossible, to hold a police officer, a police department, or a municipality liable for police misconduct. But seeing an outline of all of the Supreme Court cases, including Plumhoff v. Rickard from this year (holding that it was totally cool for cops to shoot fifteen rounds into a fleeing car during a high-speed chase, killing the suspect and a passenger), can be a bit enlightening.

Erwin Chemerinsky reviews all the reasons why the officer who shot Michael Brown will likely never be held liable: absolute and qualified immunity, the Court's Plumhoff holding that "officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended," the near-impossibility of holding the local government liable for not training its officers properly, all of which can be traced back to the Supreme Court.

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