While the big news a the Supreme Court today was the decision in Snyder v. Phelps, arguments in another of this term’s big cases was being heard : Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd.
Abudulla al-Kidd, formerly Lavni T. Kidd, was born and raised in the U.S. and converted to Islam while in college. He has never had ties to any terrorist organization, yet in 2003 he was arrested as he was about to board a plane for Saudi Arabia where he planned to study. He was held as a material witness for fifteen days, but never asked to testify, nor was he ever charged with a crime. Al-Kidd filed suit against then Attorney General John Ashcroft, saying that the the improper use of the material witness statute violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal barely touched on the Fourth Amendment, arguing that the Attorney General should have absolute immunity from such suits.
Found the story on CP ( The Canadian Press ) here.
A few sketches from today’s Supreme Court arguments in Snyder v. Phelps. Fred W. Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, whose members are primarily family, have a practice of picketing the funerals of dead soldiers with signs reading “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Fag Troops” and “God Hates You”. The father of one of those fallen soldiers, Lance Cpl Matthew Snyder, sued the church in court and won, but the judgement was overturned on appeal. The lawyer representing the bereaved father – Sean Summers, pictured below and above – began his argument : “We’re talking about a funeral. Mr. Snyder simply wanted to bury his son in a private, dignified manner”
On the other side, with the bigots, is the 1st Amendment freedom of speech. Numerous news organizations and First Amendment organizations filed briefs supporting the Kansas church. Arguing the free speech side was the daughter of the church’s pastor, Margie Phelps, pictured below.
After the argument Ms. Phelps predicted her side would win. “They’re going to uphold the law of the land that you may express a contrary view in a public forum without being sued.”
Dahlia Lithwick sums it up best here.