Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) has launched a new website, Truth in Immigration, which aims to counter "anti-immigrant" sentiment. One post discussing Lou Dobbs on this new site focuses on types of speech that it says the First Amendment does not protect:
The First Amendment also does not protect speakers from liability for the foreseeable consequences of their speech. In cases where speakers encourage their audience to commit certain illegal or inherently dangerous acts, liability may rest with speakers and the forums that they use.

For example, in 1975, in Weirum v. RKO General, Inc. 539 P.2d 36, the Supreme Court of California held that a radio station was legally liable for holding a broadcast contest that inspired listeners to drive recklessly. Two listeners, in their pursuit of a radio station vehicle that held a reward, negligently forced a car off the road, killing the driver. The Supreme Court of California affirmed a jury’s verdict that the radio station was liable for negligence for the “foreseeable results of a broadcast which created an undue risk of harm . . . .” Weirum, 539 P.2d at 43-45.

When a statement that creates a foreseeable risk of harm is broadcasted, therefore, the First Amendment does not protect the speakers and broadcasters from the consequences of their speech. Speakers and broadcasters who incite violence against immigrants and/or Latinos, for example, may be legally required to make injured parties whole through financial or other means.
So could MALDEF be implying that it would attempt to sue Dobbs and others if an "anti-immigrant" crime is committed and charge him as in some ways encouraging this violence? This could also be a threat to the networks (MALDEF mentions later that no one has a First Amendment right to have a show on a network) that they could be in the lawsuit crosshairs as well.