Home » News » Justices reject appeal from man arrested for spoofing police

By The Associated Press, published on February 23, 2023

Select Dynamic field

The setting sun illuminates the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2023. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, file

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal, backed by the satirical site The Onion, from a man who was arrested and prosecuted for making fun of police on social media.


The justices on Feb. 21 left in place a lower court ruling against Anthony Novak, who was arrested after he spoofed the Parma, Ohio, police force in Facebook posts.


After his acquittal on criminal charges, Novak sued the police for violating his constitutional rights. But a federal appeals court ruled the officers had “qualified immunity” and threw out the lawsuit.


The legal doctrine of qualified immunity means government officials, including police, are largely legally protected from First Amendment liability for actions they take as part of their official duties.


The Onion filed its brief in defense of parody. Its lawyers wrote that the First Amendment protects people from prosecution when they make fun of others.


“The Onion’s writers also have a self-serving interest in preventing political authorities from imprisoning humorists,” the site’s lawyers wrote in a brief filed in October. “This brief is submitted in the interest of at least mitigating their future punishment.”


The Free Speech Center newsletter offers a digest of First Amendment and news media-related news every other week. Subscribe for free here: https://bit.ly/3kG9uiJ



More than 1,700 articles on First Amendment topics, court cases and history