U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of man who created fake police Facebook page
Police arrested Anthony Novak in 2016 after he created a fake police Facebook page that closely mirrored the look of Parma PD's official page
By Adam Ferrise
CLEVELAND — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the appeal of a Parma man who sued the city’s police department after officers arrested him for creating a fake police Facebook page that pilloried the department.
The high court did not give a reason why it made the decision to decline the case of Anthony Novak, who was charged in 2016 and later acquitted of crimes stemming from the Facebook page.
Novak sued the city after his acquittal, arguing the city trampled on his First Amendment rights to free speech. But the district and appeals courts sided with Parma, saying that qualified immunity shielded the city from civil liability.
Qualified immunity allows government officials, including police officers, to avoid being sued for violating a person’s rights while performing their jobs, so long as they do so in the scope of their duties.
The Supreme Court’s decision will allow the lower courts decisions to stand.
The case in recent months garnered national attention, particularly after parody websites — the left-leaning The Onion and right-leaning The Babylon Bee — filed briefs in support of Novak’s case that mixed humor with serious legal arguments that defended the importance of free speech and people being allowed to make fun of the government.
Parma police arrested Novak in 2016 shortly after he created a fake police Facebook page that closely mirrored the look of Parma police’s official page.
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The posts skewered the department. One post said Parma was hiring new officers, but the department strongly encouraged minorities not apply. Another said Parma police officials were offering abortions.
The page was active for less than a day and received less than 100 followers. About 10 people called 911 to report the Facebook page. Parma police a few days later arrested Novak and seized his laptop and cellphone. He spent four days in jail and was later acquitted at trial of a fourth-degree felony charge of disrupting public services.
Novak sued, arguing the police violated his right to free speech, and lost in a ruling from U.S. District Judge Dan Polster. The appellate court also sided with the city, finding that qualified immunity applied in the case. Novak’s attorneys appealed, saying the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals failed to address the free-speech issues in the case.
Novak’s attorneys argued the Supreme Court needed to take up the case because several appeals courts decided similar cases differently. They stressed that Novak’s rights were clearly trampled.
Parma attorneys argued that the case was a clear-cut case of qualified immunity. They argued the case was reviewed by city attorneys and several judges before police arrested Novak.
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