National Lawyers Guild Files Amicus Brief in Kevin Kjonaas et al. v. United States of America

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Paige Cram, 212-679-5100, ext. 15

National Lawyers Guild Files Amicus Brief in Kevin Kjonaas et al. v. United States of America

WASHINGTON - The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court)
brief on November 23, 2010 in the case of “the SHAC 7” – Kevin
Kjonaas, Lauren Gazzola, Jacob Conroy, Joshua Harper, Andrew Stepanian, and
Darius Fullmer v. United States of America,
on petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme
Court.

The petitioners are animal rights activists associated with
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) who were sent to prison based solely on
their ideological support for animal rights protests, as expressed on an
advocacy-focused internet site.  The
online speech reported on and expressed support for the actions of third-party
activists, including some acts of civil disobedience such as freeing beagles
from the custody of the animal testing lab.

The brief asked the Court to clarify how longstanding First
Amendment principles apply in blogs and internet websites, which are an
important and developing aspect of our culture. 
Under traditional legal tests, criminal incitement and threats must be
designed to evoke imminent unlawful action. 
But as the brief notes, “The nature of the internet — available to and
aimed at a general audience rather than a specific target, reaching numbers
unknowable to the speaker at the time the communication is made, and accessed
over an unpredictable period of time — precludes application of traditional
tests to establish the imminence and incitement needed to constitute a ‘true
threat.’” 

The brief, written by attorneys Heidi Boghosian (NLG
Director) and Prof. Zachary Wolfe (NLG National Vice President and chair of the
Amicus Committee), explains that any appropriate framework must protect the
right to engage in heightened political rhetoric on the internet such as
practiced by the SHAC 7. 

“The SHAC 7 case has broad implications for First Amendment
jurisprudence,” said Heidi Boghosian. 
“At issue is a website that disseminated information on animal welfare
demonstrations and direct actions—the National Lawyers Guild does not believe
that this kind of internet organizing rises to the level of proscribed speech.”

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest
and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States.
Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

A copy of the brief is available for download from our web site.

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The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members--lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees--the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.

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