Lawyer: Free Speech Isn’t For Conservatives

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Lawyers have to defend their clients. It’s what they do. But there are limits to what they should do.

To claim outside a courthouse that there’s legal justification for snatching the papers containing the words of someone else’s talk because the talk is somehow “hate speech” and therefore not protected is laughable. Except it’s not a laughing matter. Chipping away at free speech isn’t in the best interests of anybody, except for totalitarians.

But there was Jon L. Schoenhorn, the lawyer for speech-snatcher Catherine Gregory, walking out of a courthouse Wednesday in Vernon, Connecticut and defending the act of walking up to a lectern and grabbing someone else’s papers and then trying to leave the room. That’s what Gregory did November 28 during an appearance by Gateway Pundit correspondent Lucian Wintrich at the University of Connecticut.

Here’s what the lawyer on Wednesday said into the microphones:

“There is a difference between protected hate speech, which is protected by the First Amendment, and when that language goes to invective against individuals, that’s considered fighting words and is not protected by the First Amendment. What occurred at UConn while Wintrich was speaking went to specific insults and invective against individuals based on racist statements and homophobic statements and we intend to defend and demonstrate that to justify the actions of Miss Gregory.”


Having watched a video of the entire presentation by Wintrich on November 28 (until it was forcibly ended), we’re still not sure what it was about, because he was interrupted and shouted over so often. For some reason the audio on his microphone wasn’t very high, so it was often difficult to hear him. We’re not sure how anyone can confidently label what Wintrich said “hate speech” – or any sort of speech, really.

On the other hand, there were plenty of hateful words spoken loudly. Most of them came from left-wing students in the audience, apparently auditioning for Middlebury College.

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that what Wintrich was saying (or at least trying to say) was hateful. Let’s assume it included “specific insults and invective against individuals.” Let’s even assume his motivation was “racist” and “homophobic.” (Wintrich is an open homosexual, so we’re really stretching credulity here. But play along.)

How is all that not free speech?

We acknowledge that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom to say anything you want. Threats to public safety, threats to national security, and slander aren’t protected by the First Amendment, for instance.

The so-called “fighting words” doctrine, developed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire in 1942, says that words “which, by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace” are not protected by the First Amendment.

The problem with this argument in the Wintrich matter is that the mob decided he had inflicted injury on them before he actually said anything. They didn’t give themselves an opportunity to be offended by his speech, because they didn’t listen to it or let anyone else listen to it.

Based on the back-and-forth that can be heard in the video, the reaction against Wintrich appears to come from not liking some of the things Wintrich has written and said in the past. So the “injury” turns out to be mere disagreement, something that a disturbing number of college students on the Left increasingly will not abide.

Then there’s this other problem Gregory has:  She took the papers. That’s why she’s charged with larceny. So is her lawyer saying that trying to shut down someone else’s freedom of speech because you find it hateful justifies taking his stuff?

If so, this is a new development in the war on free speech. Around the world, in supposedly open and free societies, governments are encroaching on free speech by labelling politically incorrect opinions that go against secularism and socialism as hateful and therefore illegal. But there’s no self-proclaimed democracy anywhere yet claiming that someone saying something not legally protected is also not entitled to keep his property.

We trust a judge will see the distinction.

At one point during the brief press conference Wednesday a reporter asked Gregory, “Do you think you accomplished something by doing what you did?”

She wisely refused to answer. Instead, she stuck by her earlier statement:

“I just want to thank everyone really from around the world for their support and solidarity in the struggle against racism and fascism,” Gregory said.

We’re guessing a lot of that support came from Canada.