Have you ever considered the fundamental rights that allow you to hang posters or fliers? For First Amendment advocates, these rights have been brought to attention by the controversial Connecticut case, Gleason v. Smolinski.

Nine years ago when Billy Smolinski went missing, his parents began their search immediately by hanging missing person posters around the community. Shortly after doing so, however, they saw Billy’s recent girlfriend Madeleine Gleason tearing down the same posters; she later told police that she felt harassed by them. When Smolinski was officially presumed dead, Gleason was named as a suspect in the homicide case.

The Smolinskis provided police with video of Gleason taking down the posters they had hung, but the police took no action. Gleason, however, filed a defamation suit. The trial judge for that case, Superior Court Judge Thomas Corradino, refusing to consider First Amendment arguments, did not admit much of the Smolinskis’ evidence and, according to media accounts, relied heavily on hearsay testimony. Ultimately, Gleason was awarded nearly $60,000 for intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and punitive damages.

The Smolinskis appealed this decision and oral arguments were made before a very active bench on November 20 in Connecticut’s Appellate Court in Hartford. The panel that heard and will decide the case consists of Appellate Judges Bethany J. Alvord, Stuart D. Bear and Michael R. Sheldon.

The Smolinskis are represented pro bono by Connecticut attorney Chris DeMarco and attorneys Anne McKenna and Steve Kelly of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin, and White LLC. McKenna is a First Amendment, media and privacy law specialist and Thomson Reuters Key Author; Kelly is a victims’ rights specialist.

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