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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ind. Courts - Brewington blogger/first amendment case to be argued at 9 am tomorrow before Supreme Court

See listing here in the ILB's "Upcoming Oral Arguments", which includes links to the briefs and to earlier posts.

Watch the oral argument here at 9 am, or later, archived. One hour has been set aside for this oral argument.

Tim Evans of the Indianapolis Star this afternoon posted a long, comprehensive story going into the background of the case, which started with a 2007 divorce. Evans' story begins:

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Thursday in the case of a blogger convicted of making online threats against a Southern Indiana judge.

Daniel Brewington, 39, Cincinnati, was convicted in 2011 of intimidation of a judge, attempted obstruction of justice and perjury for comments he wrote on a blog about the Dearborn County judge who presided over his contentious divorce case.

Brewington thought — and argued in court — that he was exercising his First Amendment right to criticize a public official, but authorities decided his statements crossed the line from free speech into criminal behavior.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in January upheld the most serious of his convictions.

Brewington isappealing that decision to the Supreme Court. And he has found support for his attempt to have the convictions overturned in an unlikely coalition: a mix of conservatives, liberals, academics and media advocates including The Indianapolis Star.

The groups that signed onto a friend of the court brief aren't interested in the minutiae 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 Star's decision to support the request for a Supreme Court review is not an endorsement of Brewington or his actions," Star Editor Jeff Taylor explained earlier this year when the newspaper joined the group seeking a Supreme Court review.

"Our focus is on the significant First Amendment issue raised here,” Taylor said. “We're concerned that the intimidation law, as used in this case, infringes upon protected speech and could be used as a weapon to go after anyone — whether that's a journalist, a private citizen, an activist, whatever the case — who doggedly criticizes the actions of public officials or public figures."

During Thursday’s hearing, attorneys for Brewington and the coalition will square off against the Indiana attorney general. The attorney general represents prosecutors in criminal appeals.

The docket lists the following "friends of the court":
The Digital Media Law Project; The Hoosier State Press Association; The Indiana Coalition of Open Government; The James Madison Center For Free Speech; American Civil Liberties Union of Ind.
A June 17th docket entry lists the following:
AMICUS CURIAE-EAGLE FORUM, THE HOOSIER STATE PRESS ASSOCIATION, THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR, THE ASSOCIATION OF SCHOLARS, THE COALITION FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT, THE JAMES MADISON CENTER FOR FREE SPEECH, NUVO, JAMES W. BROWN, ANTHONY FARGO, AND SHEILA S. KENNEDY
Each side will have 30 minutes.

Mr. Brewington will be represented by Indianapolis attorney Michael Sutherlin, who will share 10 minutes of his time with Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA.

The State will be represented by Stephen Creason, Chief Counsel of Appeals, Office of the Indiana Attorney General.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 11, 2013 05:16 PM
Posted to Upcoming Oral Arguments