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Judge Cuts $11M Award to $5M in Funeral Picketing Case

Posted Feb 5, 2008 5:44 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A federal judge has upheld the $2.9 million in compensatory damages awarded to the father of a fallen U.S. Marine whose funeral was picketed by a fringe Kansas church. But he has cut a Baltimore federal jury's award of $8 million in punitive damages to $2.1 million, reducing the total damages to $5 million.

Saying that the damages award for invasion of privacy and emotional distress inflicted on Albert Snyder should take into account the ability of the Westboro Baptist Church and three individual church leaders to pay it, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett made the reduction in a written opinion issued yesterday, reports the Baltimore Sun. The church contends that the Iraq war is punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

More details of the Snyder case are provided in earlier ABAJournal.com posts discussing the jury's original $11 million damages award and the picketing that provoked it. Public outrage over the church's tactics has prompted several state legislatures to enact laws against such picketing. However, such legislation—like the Snyder case—has First Amendment implications and, at least as far as laws barring funeral picketing are concerned, is of questionable validity.

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