Last week, a man from Florida went to jail for cursing out a judge in a letter. His use of language has created a debate over the First Amendment right to free speech.
Derrick Jenkins was outraged after a judge dismissed his $500 million case against the local sheriff’s station. The lawsuit regards a seatbelt citation. Jenkins was charged with criminal contempt from his angry-worded message.
Now look, I’m all here for standing up to police who need to be stood up to, but $500 million? What kind of seatbelt citation is really worth that kind of money?
That being said, this man does deserve a trial. His words deserve to be heard. But now that Jenkins wrote this letter, the judge is insisting on pressing charges on him.
Now, morally speaking, I don’t think what Jenkins did was right. I think if he really wanted to get his message across better, he definitely could have done it without cussing out the judge. That being said, his speech is totally protected by the First Amendment and he should not be facing charges.
The U.S. Constitution protects your speech against this. Jenkins is sentenced to a month in jail and six months on probation. Yeah, I get it. Cursing in a court room is not supposed to happen – especially to a judge. This just seems so completely out of hand to me.
To me, it seems like this judge must have been feeling extremely insecure to do all of this to a man just because of a letter.
Mr. Judge, get off your high horse please. Not everyone is going to like you. Are you going to hold everyone else in contempt of court and then sentence them to jail too if they use their First Amendment right?
I agree. Reading the article made me think of the clip we watched in class about “Slap Suits”. Lexicon changes to quickly and varies so much between groups I don’t think it is fair, or even worthwhile to jail someone over this behavior. Keeping people in jail is expensive and I personally would rather see $$ go toward people committing violent crimes not “verbal crimes” (??). I think it’s also worthwhile to consider how the judge may have reacted differently if he was white. Would he possibly just been dubbed as “mentally ill” instead of “a threat”…?