Oct 5, 2022
Parody site The Onion pushes Supreme Court to hear Parma man’s free speech case Transcript
The Onion pushes Supreme Court to hear Parma man’s free speech case. Read the transcript here.
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Courtney Gousman: (00:00)
A website best known for its parodies and satirical news stories files a very real legal brief urging the US Supreme Court to hear a case involving a Parma man, his Facebook page, and his First Amendment rights.
Rob Powers: (00:13)
The case in question centers around the 2016 arrest of Anthony Novak who created a Facebook page that parodied the official Parma police page. He was ultimately charged but later acquitted of felony disrupting public service charges.
Courtney Gousman: (00:28)
Novak then sued claiming his first amendment rights were violated. The case made its way to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which later ruled in favor of Parma Police on the grounds of qualified immunity.
Rob Powers: (00:40)
So Novak’s appealed the lower court’s ruling all the way to the US Supreme Court and that brings us to now. The parody site, The Onion filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it to take this case.
Courtney Gousman: (00:52)
News 5’s Jordan Vandenberge takes us in death and explains it all.
Jordan Vandenberge: (00:59)
In the great city of Parma and for the great people of Parma…
Speaker 4: (01:03)
Americans can be put in jail for poking fun at the government.
Jordan Vandenberge: (01:07)
It’s one of those things…
Speaker 5: (01:08)
The federal judiciary is staffed entirely by total Latin dorks.
Jordan Vandenberge: (01:13)
That in order to believe it…
Speaker 5: (01:15)
Its readers are deeply gullible people.
Jordan Vandenberge: (01:17)
You need to read it.
Speaker 4: (01:19)
The Onion now enjoys the daily leadership of 4.3 trillion.
Jordan Vandenberge: (01:25)
Speaker 5: (01:26)
Tu stultus es, you are dumb.
Patrick Jaicomo: (01:29)
This is an amicus brief unlike any that I’ve ever read.
Jordan Vandenberge: (01:32)
Satire is as American as apple pie.
Patrick Jaicomo: (01:35)
We were very excited to read and receive the amicus brief from The Onion in this case, not only because it’s an interesting and compelling piece of writing, but because it really shows and tells the Supreme Court the importance of parody when it comes to making arguments and more importantly, vindicating the first amendment.
Jordan Vandenberge: (01:54)
Patrick Jaicomo from the Institute for Justice represents Anthony Novak of Parma, who has charged, acquitted, and later sued Parma Police in connection with a parody police department Facebook page. The case caught the attention of The Onion, a well known parody site that has urged the Supreme Court to hear Novak’s case.
Patrick Jaicomo: (02:12)
And there’s no better voice in the United States to explain to the Supreme Court why it should take a case involving parody than The Onion as America’s primary parodist.
Jordan Vandenberge: (02:21)
Broadly at issue is the constitutional right to satire. You know satire and it’s sibling, parody.
Rob Powers: (02:31)
I got some in my hair.
Jordan Vandenberge: (02:32)
Those little things that allow me to tell you that News 5 anchor Rob Powers, a peak physical specimen, is a world class thrower of cupcakes. Imagine not having the joy of watching cupcakes splatter on cinder block. Jaicomo says the legal arguments behind his client’s case aren’t a matter of throwing something against the wall and seeing what sticks.
Patrick Jaicomo: (02:54)
The punchline of all this, and it’s not funny, although the amicus brief is, is that you only have a first amendment right or a Fourth Amendment right or any right under the Bill of Rights if you can enforce it. And doctrines like qualified immunity leave a lot of circumstances where there’s a right without a remedy.
Jordan Vandenberge: (03:11)
Novak’s case pits freedom of speech against qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects government workers from being sued for allegedly violating someone’s civil rights. The Supreme Court has famously ruled that free speech needs breathing room and Jaicomo hopes there’s enough room for laughter too.
Patrick Jaicomo: (03:30)
On the one hand, speech needs breathing room to ensure that it’s not chilled. And on the other hand, they say government workers need qualified immunity for breathing room to do their jobs. And so now we’re saying there’s only enough air in this room for so much breathing, which breathing will be done?
Jordan Vandenberge: (03:44)
Parma has until the end of the month to file a response to the amicus brief. If the Supreme Court decides to take up the case, it likely won’t do so until next year. In the parking lot cleaning up cupcakes, Jordan Vandenberge, News 5.
Courtney Gousman: (04:02)
Is that in his job description, Jordan cleaning up after Rob Powers?
Rob Powers: (04:06)
Yeah, what’s up with that?
Courtney Gousman: (04:08)
What a story, Jordan. Thank you for breaking that all down. And while we’re waiting to find out if the Supreme Court decides to hear that case, it’s added other cases concerning internet speech to its docket that includes Gonzales v. Google, where justices will decide if a federal law protects social media companies from lawsuits like they say it does. There’s also Twitter v. Taamneh, which questions whether social media can be sued for aiding and abetting and act of terrorism if there is a user content on their site that supports a group responsible for violence.