Illustration for article titled Who To Hate More: The Morally Repugnant, or the Morally Bankrupt?

It is rare that I look at a lawsuit and think that personal injury lawyers make any contribution to society. From the lady that spilled McDonald's coffee on her punani to the ridiculous pantsless (now former) D.C. judge, most people have begun to roll their eyes at a certain type of lawyer and the clients that feed them. But, today, maybe I don't hate them quite so much, because one of their ilk managed to convince a judge and jury to (potentially) bankrupt the Westboro Baptist Church. Let the vitriol roll, after the jump.

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The Westboro Baptist Church is a bunch of crazy-eyed lunatics that blame teh gays for the War in Iraq, probably because someone beat them to blaming the Jews. Their "reasoning," as far as I can follow with my rationality-addled brain, is that because the government allows gay people to exist, God is punishing us by allowing Iraqi bullets and IEDs to kill our troops. To hammer this point home, they travel around the country holding protests (most at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq) and holding signs at least as offensive as the ones in the picture.

Also, please note the presence of a child in the picture. Protesting homosexuality is a family affair for these sick fucks.

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Well, last year, they apparently protested the wrong damn funeral. Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's dad, Albert, decided to sue their pants off for disrupting the funeral of his son. Yesterday, in what some have called a victory for hurt feelings over free speech, the judge and jury awarded Albert Snyder $2.9 million in compensatory damages, $6 million in punitive damages and $2 million for emotional distress — an amount that is reportedly far more than the assets of the church or its leaders.

So, on the one hand, good for the Snyder family to sticking to these assholes that make my skin crawl with revulsion. Even if the award gets reduced or the verdict thrown out during the inevitable appeal, they've hopefully caused them enough financial damage to limit the number of other people's funerals they can protest at this year (though, that's probably wishful thinking, as I'm sure this will be great for their fundraising efforts). On the other hand, it's causing me to praise lawyers for using our legal system to get a man $11 million for what was probably a legal (if incredibly offensive) protest, and the lawyer who is probably helping erode my free speech rights is going to pocket something in the range of $5.5 million for himself. It's so hard to choose sometimes between the incredible satisfaction of legal vengeance and the fact that getting that vengeance probably hurts my rights more in the long run.

Is it too early to start drinking?

Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants [Wikipedia]
Court Rules for Cleaners In $54 Million Pants Suit [Washington Post]
Lawmaker Under Fire For Saying Jews Support Iraq War [CNN]
Father: Funeral Protest Made Him Sick [Evening Sun]
Legal battle pits privacy against free speech [The Daily Times]
Church Ordered To Pay $10.9 Million For Funeral Protest [CNN]
Man Wins Case Against Funeral Protesters [Baltimore Sun]

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DISCUSSION

@Johnny101: I know, I heard about that. A corrections worker in Florida was buying long-distance phonecards and calling fast-food places up and down the country from a payphone. He would impersonate a police officer, give a generic description of an employee, and then tell the manager to bring that employee in to a private office to wait for the police to arrive because the employee was suspected of some minor but definitely firing offense, like stealing a customer's purse.

Then the guy on the phone would tell the manager to perform a strip search of the employee, and try and get someone onsite to sexually abuse her in some way.

In chain stores of any kind, so much effort is put into brand identity and the consistency of the customer's experience, there are rules about the way you can stack shirts on a table and rules about the order in which you have to put customers' food items on their trays. Anyone who's ever worked for a fast-food restaurant can probably still parrot off manual-authorised answers to common customer questions. Because their managers drilled them on it. Yet amazingly, once you go off the script, even managers and people whom you'd think would have an ounce of native intelligence will listen to the convincing-sounding guy on the phone and tell janitors to do cavity searches on 17-year-old girls.

[www.cnn.com]

Of course this isn't anything the Milgram experiment didn't specifically tell us before, but I'm glad McDonald's lost the case.