The parents of George Zimmerman saw a Florida judge throw out their case against Roseanne Barr. That is certainly the correct decision, but it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. The First Amendment is the First Amendment and it apparently allows people to be stupid. And obnoxious too.
Back in March of 2012, Roseanne sent out a number of tweets, several of which identified the home address of Gladys and Robert Zimmerman, the parents of George Zimmerman. In one message she tweeted “If Zimmerman isn’t arrested I’ll rt (re-tweet) his address again – maybe go 2 his house myself.”
The Zimmermans filed suit claiming Barr’s tweets caused them emotional harm and infringed on their privacy rights. The court’s decision to toss the suit ended the legal journey, at least pending appeal.
The problem for the Zimmermans was the simple fact that their address was a matter of public record. And it’s just not possible to sue someone for disclosing information that’s already publicly available. I suppose an argument could be made that exposing the address to the world (they call it the worldwide web for a reason) takes matters to a whole new level, and therefore creates a cause of action. But I’m not aware of a case that says that.
While the court didn’t explain its ruling in any detail, Barr’s lawyers also argued that the Zimmermans interjected themselves into the controversy – by publicly defending their son -- and therefore sacrificed their privacy interest. While we’ll never know why the court ruled the way it did there’s a part of me that hopes this wasn’t the case. Seems like a pretty tough choice for a parent – either follow your instincts and protect your son or retain some semblance of normalcy.
I agree that publishing a publicly available address simply doesn’t equal invasion of privacy or infliction of emotional distress. I have a tougher time agreeing that being a parent makes you fair game for a vindictive idiot like Roseanne.