This article analyzes the United States Supreme Court’s March 2011 decision in Snyder v. Phelps. Specifically, it demonstrates the narrow nature of the holding, and argues that while narrow framing, in the tradition of judicial minimalism, may have been a strategic move by Chief Justice John Roberts to obtain a decisive eight-justice majority, the resulting opinion failed to advance First Amendment jurisprudence significantly. Instead, the outcome simply—even predictably—fell in line with an established order of decisions. This article examines four tactics employed by the Chief Justice to narrow the case in such a way that its outcome was essentially predetermined. This article relies on the works of Professors Frederick Schauer and Cass Sunstein, among others, in its analysis of issues related to Roberts’ judicial minimalism in Snyder.
Too Narrow of a Holding? How - and Perhaps Why - Chief Justice John Roberts turned Snyder v. Phelps into an Easy Case,
Okla. L. Rev.