Father Ordered to Pay Westboro Baptist Church’s Legal Costs

In an action that has outraged many citizens, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ordered the family of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder to pay the legal costs of the extremist Westboro Baptist Church, which picketed Snyder’s funeral and celebrated his death.

In 2006, the Fourth Circuit reversed judgments against Westboro, a decision that I agree with on first amendment grounds. The Supreme Court has taken up the case.

The Church has announced that it will use the money to fund more protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers and Marines where Church members wave signs reading “You’re going to hell,” “God hates you” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

The Fourth Circuit ordered the family to pay more than $16,000 in costs requested by Westboro for copies of motions, briefs and appendices, according to court documents.

The Church members view the entire matter in more apocalyptic rather than procedural terms. Phelps, one of its leaders and lawyers, stated:
“When the Supreme Court unanimously upholds the 4th Circuit, it’s going to put this country in a rage, and we will be expelled,” she said. “But whenever it was time for an epic event in the Bible, the thing that happened right before is the prophets were removed from the land, and that’s what’s going to happen to us. … We’re going to sprint to the end of this race.”

Rule 39 states:

Rule 39. Costs
(a) Against Whom Assessed. The following rules apply unless the law provides or the court orders otherwise:
(1)if an appeal is dismissed, costs are taxed against the appellant, unless the parties agree
otherwise;
(2)if a judgment is affirmed, costs are taxed against the appellant;
(3)if a judgment is reversed, costs are taxed against the appellee;
(4)if a judgment is affirmed in part, reversed in part, modified, or vacated, costs are taxed only as the court orders.

I disagree with the assignment of such costs. For years, some jurists and politicians have been moving toward an “English rule” where losers pay costs in litigation. It is a rule that has a decidedly negative impact on public interest and consumer lawsuits. This is not as extreme as the English rule but it creates a chilling effect for any family that wants to be heard in such a case. It is particularly troubling when the family prevailed at trial in a clearly non-frivolous case. While I believe the Church has free speech rights in conducting these protests, I do not see the wisdom in the awarding of costs as a general rule in such cases against a private — as opposed to a governmental — litigant.

For the full story, click here.

77 thoughts on “Father Ordered to Pay Westboro Baptist Church’s Legal Costs

  1. “Where is Mr. Snyders right to free speech? To free expression? How about his freedom to practice his religion?
    You cannot ensure 1 parties rights by squelching the same right of someone else yet no one seems to be recognizing that that is exactly what the ‘church’ of nasty people is doing.”

    Since the Phelps’s are banned from approaching the funeral, and are compelled to hold their protests 300 feet away your argument claiming they are squelching the rights of others would fall flat.

    It is unfortunate that the Phelp’s choose the venue they choose to spread their religious opinions but unless we would like to turn America into an Orwellian police state that stifles freedom of belief and expression then the Phelps’s are merely a good example of how much we as American’s value our freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

  2. Benders Flats:

    “You mean a fairy tale? Well sir you are welcome to try and overturn a few centuries of religious freedom of expression if you think you are able to but I can tell you now you would lose.”

    *************************

    Since the burden of proving the existence of the Almighty and Phelps’ uncanny knack for knowing His will, rests squarely on the proponent, I think the case is a dead bang winner. Centuries of folks like Phelps (and presumably you, too) trying to do it hasn’t worked, but maybe you have the answer. Do you have a heavenly hot line, too? You certainly have the market cornered on detecting typos. If you get the chance there Mr. Webster, maybe we can talk about an occasional comma in your commentary every so often.

  3. “Since the Phelps’s are banned from approaching the funeral, and are compelled to hold their protests 300 feet away your argument claiming they are squelching the rights of others would fall flat. ”

    Yes, and I’m really enjoying the video showing the HS ‘countering’ the nonsense. The kids out there these days are really very cool indeed….

    Still, the article alluded to a pattern of behavior and lawsuits by the church….surely THAT would be dealt with?

  4. I won’t respond to your silly insults or name calling.

    As for your boasting your statements insisting they would have to prove the existence of their god demonstrates how little you know about the law or the Constitution. There is no Clause in the 1st Amendment requiring Americans to “prove” the existence of the deity they choose to worship.

    As I said, you argument would not prevail. But feel free to try.

  5. Sorry Mr Cat, your comments appeared after I posted mine. My comments were to the prior commenter.

    As for the lawsuits I’m sure if they were bringing frivolous cases before the court that could be dealt with, yes. In fact Fred Phelps was disbarred back in 79 after wasting the courts time with frivolous suits.

  6. “I won’t respond to your silly insults or name calling.”

    *************

    Given your succeeding sentences, I wouldn’t try either, but since you made the effort:

    No one wants to ban this family business of hate and delusion, it’s just that if Phelps comes to court to challenge a law requiring him to behave decently by staying 300 feet away from mourners, he’ll have to prove it. That is, if he wants to say he did it on direct orders from his loving deity, your breathtaking knowledge of the Constitution and law, notwithstanding.

  7. Why aren’t the Phelps and their kinfolk restricted to free speech zones the way anti-war protestors were under George the Second?

  8. Mr Mespo. I do not need to stoop to silly insults to insult you. Your own comments are sufficient for the cause.

    Attempting to label me as religious (I haven’t been inside of a church since I was a child, and that was on Easter I think) is a clear sign of your intent which is apparently to attack religious people. Which places you in the same category as the Phelps who attack non religious people.It also demonstrates your inability to make an argument without first misrepresenting your opponents position.

    As for your comment that no one wants to ban this family business of hate and delusion you apparently are either ignorant of the comments you were responding to or are again misrepresenting them as the comment of mine you were addressing was in response to comments made about banning the Phelps from picketing.

    As for this comment “it’s just that if Phelps comes to court to challenge a law requiring him to behave decently by staying 300 feet away from mourners, he’ll have to prove it” again no one was talking about Phelps coming to court thus this response is misleading.

    “IFS” were not being discussed here, but they are apparently necessary to sell your own particular brand of hate.

  9. “As for your comment that no one wants to ban this family business of hate and delusion you apparently are either ignorant of the comments you were responding to or are again misrepresenting them as the comment of mine you were addressing was in response to comments made about banning the Phelps from picketing.

    As for this comment “it’s just that if Phelps comes to court to challenge a law requiring him to behave decently by staying 300 feet away from mourners, he’ll have to prove it” again no one was talking about Phelps coming to court thus this response is misleading.

    IFS were not being discussed here, but they are apparently necessary to sell your own particular brand of hate.”

    ***************

    I never suggested banning Phelps from “picketing” (giving him a good ass whipping, now that’s a suggestion I’d consider), I just said make him have the decency to keep away from folks who don’t want to hear his insanity while mourning their family member’s death.

    I wonder how I will prove the absence of the Almighty in court (as you invited me to do) without first coming to court, but that is likely something your vast knowledge of the law encompasses, too.

    Hating the hating bigot is no sin, and since that description applies to all fundie religionists, I guess I am attacking these “sacred cows.”

  10. I never suggested banning Phelps from “picketing”

    Mr Mespo. That is irrelevant. The comments you were responding to of mine WERE about banning Phelps from picketing.

    You were responding to my comments as if they had something to do with Phelps contesting the 300 foot rule, which they did not. So I’m not sure if you’re playing games, trying to be purposefully confusing or just don’t bother to read comments prior to responding to them. Either way I said nothing about the 300 foot rule. That was completely your invention.

    As for beating Mr Phelps for his words you tip your hand too deep. I’d be careful about pigeonholing myself as a thug and a criminal.

  11. OMG….the craziness begins anew…repeated patterns of deliberately inflicting distress is not free speech.

    “Protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., headed to the Upper Big Branch mine Thursday morning to convey the message that the explosion there that left 25 miners dead was a result of e-mail messages allegedly sent from West Virginia threatening the Church and its publisher, according to a statement from the Church. “

  12. These bastards need to go to Iraq and protest but they haven’t got the balls. They need to protest in a war zone. As a matter of fact I challenge them to do this and they will make the news which is what they want. They are planning protests in Florida this month. They need to be put in jail for inciting a riot. The U.S. government needs to revoke their tax free status as a church. They are a hate group not a church.

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