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Monday, February 25, 2013

Ind. Decisions - "Wide range of free speech advocates ask Supreme Court to review jailed blogger's case" [Updated]

Updating a long list of ILB entries, going back two years to March 11, 2011, Tim Evans of the Indianapolis Star has a long front-page story today headed "Wide range of free speech advocates ask Supreme Court to review jailed blogger's case." Some quotes:

[Daniel] Brewington was convicted in 2011 of intimidation of a judge, attempted obstruction of justice and perjury.

The Indiana Court of Appeals last month upheld the most serious of his convictions.

Now, an unlikely coalition — a mix of conservatives, liberals, academics and media advocates including The Indianapolis Star — has asked the Indiana Supreme Court to review the case of the 39-year-old blogger from Cincinnati.

The groups who signed onto a friend of the court brief aren’t interested in the minutia of Brewington’s divorce and custody fight. Their concern extends to a broader issue: A belief that Indiana’s intimidation law — particularly as interpreted by the Court of Appeals in Brewington’s case — violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. * * *

The attorney general’s office has not filed a brief with the Supreme Court but will do so by a March 11 deadline, said spokesman Bryan Corbin.

“The state’s brief will defend the jury’s decision to find Brewington guilty,” Corbin said, “and explain to the Indiana Supreme Court why his underlying convictions are constitutional.”

In the appellate case, the attorney general’s office successfully argued Brewington’s free speech rights were not violated, contending his comments were “unprotected” and “fighting words” that constituted criminal conduct. * * *

The Court of Appeals decision poses a serious threat that extends far beyond Brewington, said attorney Gavin Rose of the ACLU of Indiana, which also filed a request for a review.

The ruling in Brewington’s case has the potential to affect all Hoosiers, he said, because it criminalizes protected speech, including criticism of the actions of public officials.

“Dan Brewington spoke out — as more and more people do with the advent of the Internet — and, quite frankly, it’s disappointing and a little surprising that charges were even brought, let alone that they were upheld at the appellate level,” Rose said.

Volokh, the UCLA law professor, said Indiana’s intimidation law is too broad and must be refined.

The law correctly bars threats of blackmail and physical violence that are made face-to-face or likely to be carried out, he said. The problem is that it also prohibits statements that threaten to “expose the person threatened to hatred, contempt, disgrace, or ridicule,” Volokh said.

That’s the part that landed Brewington in prison.

The ILB has posted links to Brewington's petition for transfer, and the Volokh brief in support. I'm also attempting to obtain the ACLU brief, and will link to it here.

[Update] Here is the ACLU brief.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 25, 2013 09:22 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions