A guy named Anthony Novak made fun of the Parma (Ohio) Police Department by creating a parody Facebook page mocking the official police website.
The Parma constabulary took a dim view of Novak’s efforts. So, after consulting the city’s “law director,” they arrested him (Novak) for “illegal use of a computer to disrupt or impair police functions.”
A jury of his peers acquitted Novak of the charge.
If you aren’t pretty certain you grasp the definition of ‘parody,’ now is the time to look it up. Something the Parma city scions seem to have neglected: Novak has sued the city for violation of his Constitutional rights.
Win or lose that suit, he has proved the police disrupted and impaired their own function by arresting him. For speaking.
So far, though, he hasn’t been allowed to present his case. There’s this thing that encourages city “law directors” to take legal risks organizations vulnerable to Constitutional strictures would avoid. It’s known as “qualified immunity.”
According to a district court, with concurrence from the Sixth Circuit, Novak is not allowed to have this question adjudicated. He is not entitled to seek remedy because qualified immunity protects public officials from lawsuits when they violate a federal right unless “the unlawfulness of their conduct was clearly established” at the time they acted.
The First Amendment clearly established Novak’s right to parodize the local constabulary in 1787. That is his opinion, anyway. And mine. And the jury’s. The case is going to the Supreme Court.
The Onion has filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the suit. I think the Babylon Bee is consistently more creative, but The Onion got its mojo back on with this brief. It’s 23 hilarious pages. Courtesy of the Institute for Justice
Top notch and worth the time.