First Amendment scholar and UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh knows a thing or two about blogging and free speech, as namesake of the popular legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy.
In arguing the First Amendment implications of the case in which Daniel Brewington was convicted of intimidating a judge and other charges, Volokh said the statute under which Brewington was prosecuted wasn’t just unconstitutional as applied to him, but unconstitutional on its face.
After the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Brewington’s convictions, Volokh blogged about it on his site and built an unlikely coalition of a dozen amici who asked the court to rule part of Indiana’s intimidation statute unconstitutional.
They point to language in I.C. 35-45-2-1 that defines intimidation as a threat intended to “expose the person threatened to hatred, contempt, disgrace, or ridicule.” The Court of Appeals held that under the statute, the crime “consists of threatening the victim with the intention of placing the victim in fear for a prior lawful act. The truthfulness of the threatened disclosure is not necessarily relevant to prosecution because the harm, placing a victim in fear, occurs whether the publicized conduct is true or false.”
Volokh and others argued that taken a step further, the opinion could be used to potentially prosecute people for political speech or even expressing opinions in letters to the editor or forums such as Angie’s List, for example.
“If the Court of Appeals decision is allowed to stand, it would be a precedent that could be cited in other states,” he said.
Volokh’s argument before the court was presented on behalf of himself and the following amicus joiners: American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Eagle Forum, Hoosier State Press Association, Indianapolis Star, Indiana Association of Scholars, Indiana Coalition for Open Government, James Madison Center for Free Speech, NUVO Newsweekly, former IUPUI School of Journalism Dean James W. Brown and IUPUI professors Anthony Fargo and Sheila S. Kennedy.•