Can derogatory remarks about a teacher be both constitutionally protected speech and also punishable as harassment?A Wisconsin appeals court appears to believe so.The Wisconsin Supreme Court is being asked to take up the case of "Kaleb K.," a 15-year-old student from Stevens Point, Wisc., who was arrested after posting a homemade rap on YouTube filled with profane, degrading language about his Spanish teacher.In September 2012, a juvenile-court judge declared Kaleb delinquent on the grounds of violating state criminal statutes against disorderly conduct and unlawful use of a computer communications system.In a ruling last November, the state Court of Appeals threw out the disorderly conduct charge, finding that Kaleb's lyrics, though distasteful, were not threatening, obscene or otherwise outside the boundaries of the First Amendment.But the court then went on to uphold the conviction under the state's computer-harassment law, which makes it a misdemeanor if a speaker "sends a message to [a] person on an electronic mail or other computerized communication system" that contains lewd or profane language "with the intent to harass, annoy, or offend."It's possible to harass someone even with a constitutionally protected message if the speech is delivered in an especially harassing manner.
Tag: Wisconsin Supreme Court
TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: This just in… lawyers have to obey the law
Like it or not, attorneys who work on contract for government agencies -- and, it turns out, even those whose payment flows through government agencies' insurance companies -- must let the public know what they're charging for.That's the bottom line of a new ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court that comes just a few months after courts in California and Ohio reached the same conclusion.
TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Don’t take “no” for a public-records answer — and don’t take “copyright,” either
On occasion, people in positions of public authority know "just enough law to be dangerous" -- not enough to actually get the answer right, but enough to convince themselves that they have, because the answer has lots of authoritative-sounding words in it.This is the story of one such occasion.Recently, the SPLC attorney hotline received what started out as an unremarkable call from a college journalist whose request to a government agency for public records was denied.