In 2016, amateur comic Anthony Novak from the Cleveland suburb of Parma was arrested and jailed after creating a fake social media page modeled after the Parma Police Department’s Facebook page. His lawyers argue Blatant parodyHe was acquitted on further investigation.
Novak filed a civil suit alleging that his constitutional rights were violated, although that was later dismissed by a federal appeals court. Issued to Police Officers Qualified immunity – a A legal doctrine that protects government officials from prosecution Alleged violation of civil rights. “There is no recognized right to be free from retaliatory arrest supported by probable cause,” the appeals judges ruled.
Now, Novak Petition His case should be heard by the Supreme Court.
True to form, The Support summary Novak’s petition, filed by The Onion’s lawyers on Monday, has taken a satirical approach to the nation’s Supreme Court consideration. It begins with a blatantly false claim that The Onion is “the world’s leading news publication,” with “4.3 trillion daily readers,” and “has grown into the most powerful and influential organization in human history.”
Despite the sarcasm and hyperbole, the legal brief is no joke. The purpose of the publication is to get the Supreme Court to examine qualified immunity and free speech rights. (Amicus briefs Documents filed by parties not directly involved in a case to provide additional information to the court.)
“The Onion cannot stand idly by in the face of a ruling that threatens to destabilize a genre of rhetoric that has existed for millennia, particularly powerful in the realm of political discourse, and, quite incidentally, forms the basis of the Onion. Writers’ paychecks,” the synopsis reads.
The Onion points out the flaws in the legal system when it comes to protecting those who use humor to question those in positions of power.
“The Onion continues to poke its finger in the eye of repressive and authoritarian regimes such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, and domestic presidential administrations,” the summary reads. “So the Onion’s professional pranksters were less likely to face a legal ruling that failed to hold government actors accountable for imprisoning and prosecuting someone who might be a joker for mocking them.”
According to Novak’s attorneys, police obtained a warrant for his arrest on a fake Facebook page mocking the department. The page in question was only up for about 12 hours before Novak took it down after law enforcement officials threatened a criminal investigation. They searched his apartment, seized his electronics and charged him under an Ohio law that criminalizes using a computer to “disrupt” police operations.
Novak’s petition requires the Supreme Court to decide whether officers can claim qualified immunity when arresting someone based on speech. It asks the justices to scrap the doctrine altogether.
Richard Recy, a lawyer representing Pharma, said in an email Tuesday that Novak’s suit was “without merit” and that the courts that rejected it “did not base their opinions on ridicule, free speech or the need for rebuttal.”
Novak “went beyond mimicry” when he copied the City of Burma’s warning about his page onto the fake page, claiming it was his “official” version, Rezzi said. “Fake copying an official warning and claiming to be a real Facebook page is not parody.”
The Onion did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its legal brief. Andrew Wimer, a spokesman for the Institute for Justice, a civil rights law nonprofit that represents Novak, described the summary as “humorous and very serious.”
“If the police can use their power to arrest their critics, everyone’s rights are at risk,” the agency said in a statement.
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”