SCOTUSblog on Monday's arguments, Court difficult to read on Facebook threats: In Plain English "It is often hard to make predictions about how a case will turn out based on the oral arguments. That was particularly true today, in Elonis v. United States. At issue in the case is whether a Pennsylvania man’s conviction for making threats on Facebook should stand when he claims he was just ‘venting’ about his personal problems and did not actually mean to threaten his ex-wife and an FBI agent. Although the Roberts Court has been consistently supportive of free speech, even when the substance of that speech is unpopular or even downright offensive, it wasn’t clear this morning that Anthony Elonis can count on the same kind of support. At the same time, there was no obvious path to victory for the federal government either, and the end result could be a decision that neither side likes. Let’s talk about today’s argument in Plain English.
As I explained in my preview last week, the case before the Court boils down to what test a court or jury should use to figure out whether threatening statements like the ones that Elonis made on Facebook are “true threats” that are not protected by the First Amendment. The government argues that the test should be an objective one that looks at whether an average person (in legal parlance, a “reasonable person”) would interpret the statement as reflecting a serious intent to harm someone. By contrast, Elonis argues that the test should be a subjective one: did he personally intend to threaten anyone?"
Lyle Denniston provides his Argument analysis: Taking ownership of an Internet rant.