The Onion Files Parody Brief to Supreme Court in Defense of Speech Rights

The Onion a parody news organization that bills itself as “America’s Finest News Source,” has filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case involving the suppression of a man’s speech rights after he parodied his local police department.

Six years ago, Anthony Novak created a Facebook Page in which he made blatantly fake posts pretending to be the police departmentFrom his hometown in Parma Ohio. In response, the department arrested Novak, alleging that he committed a criminal felony by using his computer to “disrupt” or “interrupt” police functions.

Novak was acquitted in a jury trial of these charges. Novak then filed a lawsuit against police, claiming that his First Amendment rights to speech had been violated and his Fourth Amendment protections from improper searches had been breached. The case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit. It sided with the police department and ruled that he could not proceed with his lawsuit, citing Qualified immunity standards protect the police from civil lawsuits.

Novak has appealed his case to the Supreme CourtIt has not yet been indicated if they will hear it. He claims that the Court must decide, once and for all. whether “censorship-by-arrest” should prevailIf qualified immunity should be applied in police cases involving speech rights violations,

The Onion, a parody newspaper founded in 1988, although it jokes that it can trace its origins back much further. filed an amicus curiae (or “friend of the court”) brief to the Supreme CourtThis week, Novak is defending his position and stating that a Certiorari writshould be allowed to hear his case.

The short reads much like articles found on The Onion’s website.

The Onion is the world’s leading news publication, offering highly acclaimed, universally revered coverage of breaking national, international, and local news events,” the publication said in its legal filing. “Rising from its humble beginnings as a print newspaper in 1756, The Onion now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.”

The company took great pains to explain why parody should be protected speech — and noted that parodies are often closer to the truth than some might think. 2017 was a good example. the site published an article titled “Mar-a-Lago Assistant Manager Wondering if Anyone Coming to Collect Nuclear Briefcase from Lost and Found,” Years before the current Trump document scandalThe Department of Justice is currently investigating.

The Onion files this brief to protect its continued ability to create fiction that may ultimately merge into reality,” the company said.

“‘Ohio Police Officers Arrest, Prosecute Man Who Made Fun of Them on Facebook’ might sound like a headline ripped from the front pages of The Onion — albeit one that’s considerably less amusing because its subjects are real,” the company went on.

The Onion argued against the idea that all Novak had to do was write “parody” or otherwise indicate that the Facebook page was satire in order to avoid prosecution.

“For parody to work, it has to plausibly mimic the original,” the brief states, adding that the filing “would not have worked quite as well if this brief had said the following: ‘Hello there, reader, we are about to write an amicus brief about the value of parody. Buckle up, because we’re going to be doing some fairly outré things, including commenting on this text’s form itself!’”

No matter whether or not the Court acts, The Onion said it would “continue its socially valuable role bringing the disinfectant of sunlight into the halls of power” through its parody work.

“And it would vastly prefer that sunlight not to be measured out to its writers in 15- minute increments in an exercise yard,” the company stated in one of the final paragraphs of its legal filing.