SCOTUS Decides on Free Speech, Guns, Church and State, Facebook Threats and...Scottie Pippen?

 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says an anti-abortion group can challenge an Ohio law that bars people from making false statements about political candidates during a campaign.

The justices ruled unanimously on Monday that the Susan B. Anthony List can go ahead with a lawsuit challenging the law as a violation of free-speech rights.

Both liberal and conservative groups have criticized the law, saying it has a chilling effect on political speech. Even Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine declined to defend the law in court, sending his deputies to argue for the state.

The Susan B. Anthony List was accused of violating the law during the 2010 election, when it accused an Ohio congressman of supporting taxpayer-funded abortion because he backed the new health care law.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says federal law does not allow a "straw" purchaser to buy a gun for someone else, even if both are legally eligible to own firearms.

The justices ruled Monday that the federal background check law applied to Bruce James Abramski, Jr. when he bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Virginia, in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Federal officials brought charges against Abramski because he assured the Virginia dealer he was the actual buyer of the weapon, even though he had already agreed to buy the gun for his uncle.

The high court rejected Abramski's argument that since both he and his uncle were legally allowed to own guns, the law shouldn't have applied to him.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has left in place a court decision that said public high school graduations in a church adorned with religious symbols violated the separation of church and state.

The justices' action Monday comes more than a month after the court upheld Christian prayer at the start of town council meetings.

The justices did not explain their denial of the appeal from the Elmbrook School District in southeastern Wisconsin, however. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the case.

In 2012, the federal appeals court in Chicago found that a giant cross on the wall of Elmbrook Church and other religious symbols that were visible during graduation ceremonies conveyed a message that government was endorsing a particular religion. The district no longer holds graduations there.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will consider the free speech rights of people who use violent or threatening language on Facebook and other electronic media where the speaker's intent is not always clear.

The court on Monday agreed to take up the case of an eastern Pennsylvania man sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for posting violent online rants against his estranged wife, law enforcement officials and former co-workers.

A federal appeals court rejected Anthony Elonis' claim that his comments were protected by the First Amendment. He says he never meant to carry out the threats. He claims he was depressed and made the online posts in the form of rap lyrics as a way of venting his frustration after his wife left him.

At his trial, the jury was instructed that Elonis could be found guilty if an objective person could consider his posts to be threatening. Attorneys for Elonis argue that the jury should have been told to apply a subjective standard and decide whether Elonis meant the messages to be understood as threats.

Elonis's lawyers say a subjective standard is appropriate given the impersonal nature of communication over the Internet, which can lead people to misinterpret messages. They argue that comments intended for a smaller audience can be viewed by others unfamiliar with the context and interpret the statements differently than was intended.

The Obama administration says requiring proof of a subjective threat would undermine the purpose of the federal law prohibiting threats.

The high court said it will consider whether conviction of threatening another person under federal law "requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten."

For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has said that "true threats" to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment. But the court has cautioned that laws prohibiting threats must not infringe on constitutionally protected speech. That includes "political hyperbole" or "unpleasantly sharp attacks" that fall shy of true threats.

The federal statute targeting threats of violence is likely to be used more often in the coming years "as our speech increasingly migrates from in-person and traditional handwritten communication to digital devices and the Internet," said Clay Calvert, a law professor at the University of Florida.

Calvert, one of several free speech advocates who submitted a legal brief urging the court to use a subjective standard, said people mistakenly seem to feel that they can get away with more incendiary speech on the Internet, in tweets and in texts.

Elonis' estranged wife testified at his trial the postings made her fear for her life. One post about his wife said, "There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts."

FBI agents visited Elonis at home after the amusement park that fired him contacted law enforcement officials about his posts. After the agents left, Elonis wrote: "Little agent lady stood so close, took all the strength I had not to turn the (woman) ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist and slit her throat."

The case is Elonis v. United States, 13-983.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has declined to revive a defamation lawsuit that former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen filed against several media companies for falsely reporting he had filed for bankruptcy.

The justices on Monday did not comment in letting stand lower court decisions dismissing the $10 million lawsuit against NBCUniversal Media LLC, CBS Interactive, Inc. and other media outlets.

Lower courts found that as a public figure, Pippen could not show the reports were published with actual malice. That standard requires Pippen to show the information was published knowing it was false or issued with reckless disregard for the truth.

Pippen claimed the media companies acted with malice because they refused to correct or remove the erroneous reports from several websites after being alerted to the error.

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