Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Amendment or bust

Recently in Cincinnati, Ohio, an ex-husband was ordered by a domestic relations court to apologize on his Facebook account to his ex-wife. The court ordered him to apologize for thirty consecutive days posting an apology written for him. I was immediately appalled. I couldn't believe any judge would think this punishment would be legal in itself. As it seems to us in the private sector, judges often are want to hand down rulings or judgements with whatever whims they desire. Then, I thought I would do some digging.

This flaunts nearly everything in the First Amendment, I thought. So, I researched several things on the net about the 'First'. One of the things I came across concerned libel and slander. I read several things and decided this particular magistrate must be ruling based on this section of interpretation. The problem however is courts often go back on previous decisions and rewrite them with their own interpretations. And this is in the Supreme Court. I have often failed to see how something can be ruled constitutional but then a court years later doesn't hold the same opinion. It is or it isn't. Although society's tools such as the use of the internet changes, the fundamentals don't. The biggest flaw here is the use and interpretation of whether a private person's opinion constitutes slander. Even here the courts don't always agree.

Under this situation I could understand how the magistrate could rule that an apology was in order. (The other choice he had was sixty days in jail). Although I now believe the magistrate might have been on the right track, dictating the actual apology overstepped the bounds of the court (in my opinion). In this case the court represents the government and should not be able to force/coerce any individual into saying or publishing something he doesn't believe is true. If in fact the defendant truly stated an opinion that that was not actionable, the magistrate's ruling then limits the magistrate's own voice in stating any future personal opinion about anyone he may meet in the future.

I doubt that anyone could go through life without expressing a negative opinion about another. Hope he has a stack of legal pads to write the apologies he'll need for the rest of his life, thirty days at a time.

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