The Associated Press reports that a three-judge panel in the 9th District Court has thrown out the controversial civil lawsuit against the Nuremberg Files web site.
The Nuremberg Files was a web site set up by anti-abortion activists. Among other things, the site listed names and other personal information about doctors who performed physicians. It also included posters that mimicked wanted posters but included pictures of abortion providers and described as “baby butchers.”
Three doctors whose names appeared on lists maintained by the Nuremberg Files were murdered. Planned Parenthood sued the Nuremberg Files in court under provisions of the RICO statute claiming that the web site was essentially the focal point of a criminal conspiracy. That nobody involved with the web site had committed or even planned any acts of violence was irrelevant — the contents of the web site itself made the Nuremberg Files responsible, in part, for abortion-related violence.
A jury agreed with Planned Parenthood and the proprietors of the site were ordered to pay damages to Planned Parenthood and several abortion doctors.
The 9th District Court unanimously agreed that the jury was wrong — what the Nuremberg Files did was speech protected by the First Amendment. In the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski wrote,
If defendants threatened to commit violent acts, by working alone or with others, then their [works] could properly support the verdict. But if their [works] merely encouraged unrelated terrorists, then their words are protected by the First Amendment.
I suspect the Supreme Court will overturn the 9th District’s opinion, even if it ultimately sides with the Nuremberg Files, since the decision provides a gaping legal hole for people conspiring to commit murder to exploit.
Court: OK to Encourage Abortion Threat. David Kreats, Associated Press, March 28, 2001.