Pointing to her privacy rights, attorneys for prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer have asked a federal appeals court to overturn a decision in a lawsuit stemming from emails she received after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Hammer filed a lawsuit against California attorney Lawrence Sorensen and three other men over emails she alleged were harassing and threatening, including emails from Sorensen that contained photos showing injuries from gunshot wounds.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in November dismissed Hammer’s claims against Sorensen on First Amendment grounds, though he described the emails as “disgusting.” Hammer appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, and her attorneys on Friday filed a 51-page brief arguing that Hinkle’s decision should be reversed.
“The crux of this case is the sacrosanct but often neglected right of every private citizen to be ‘let alone’ and free from unwelcome interactions in non-public settings,” the brief said. “Protecting privacy as vigorously as free speech is critical at a time when the internet and social media have connected everyone on platforms where personal interactions are effortless and instantaneous, yet detached and impersonal, and the frequency with which people are being exposed to unwanted and unwelcome speech in non-public settings is exponentially increasing.”
The brief argued that the lower-court ruling did not properly balance free-speech and privacy rights. “Ms. Hammer is not complaining about images she saw in a movie, videogame, show, or medical journal,” the brief said. “Ms. Hammer sued over images Mr. Sorensen thrust upon her unwillingly in the privacy of her home.” Hammer is a longtime gun-rights lobbyist in Tallahassee and is a former national president of the NRA.