Supreme Court hears arguments on threatening social media posts
Supreme Court hears arguments on threatening social media posts

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in two cases on Monday. In Elonis v. United States [transcript, PDF] the court considered whether a conviction of threatening another person over interstate lines under 18 USC § 875(c) [text] requires proof that the defendant maintained subjective intent to threaten, or if it is enough to prove that a reasonable person would feel threatened by the statement(s). Elonis, a Pennsylvania man, was convicted on five counts of transmitting in interstate commerce any threat to injure the person of another by posting threatening comments on Facebook about his former employees and ex-wife. Elonis argues that under the First Amendment the government has to prove that he had a subjective intent to threaten, and he claims that he was only posting rap lyrics. The appeals court held that only a showing that a reasonable person would feel threatened is required.

The court also heard arguments in the consolidated cases [transcript, PDF] of Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association and Nickols v. Mortgage Bankers Association, in which the court considered whether a federal agency must conduct notice and comment rulemaking according to the Administrative Procedure Act [text] before it changes an interpretive rule based on the agency’s own interpretation. In this case, the Department of Labor [official website] changed its interpretation of a part of the Fair Labor Standards Act [text, PDF], which creates an exception to the requirement that employees that work overtime be paid extra. The agency issued an administrative interpretation advising that mortgage loan officers do not fall within one of the exceptions, particularly administrative individuals, and the Mortgage Bankers Association filed suit. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] found that notice and comment rulemaking is required before issuing such changes.