Incitement to Riot Lawsuit Against Trump Dismissed

Incitement to Riot Lawsuit Against Trump Dismissed September 12, 2018

One of the lawsuits claiming that Trump incited violence against protesters at one of his campaign rallies has been dismissed by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. This one involved a rally in Louisville in which Trump said of protesters “Get ’em outta here.” They were escorted out by security but were pushed and shoved by audience members as it happened. The court said:

The district court denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the claim but certified its order for immediate interlocutory appeal. The court identified a two-part question for review: whether plaintiffs have stated a valid claim under Kentucky law and, if so,
whether the First Amendment immunizes Trump from punishment under state law. We answer “no” to the first part, because plaintiffs’ allegations do not satisfy the required elements of “incitement to riot.” As to the second part, we hold “yes,” Trump’s speech enjoys First Amendment protection, because he did not specifically advocate imminent lawless action. The district court’s denial of Trump’s motion to dismiss the claim must therefore be reversed.

This was the inevitable end of the suit. The “incitement to riot” exception to the First Amendment is very, very narrow and the standard — “imminent lawless action” — is nearly impossible to meet. And in this case, merely saying “get em outta here” is not an instruction for audience members to push and shove anyone, it’s an instruction for security to remove them, which they have every legal right to do. There was no way this case was going to end any other way.

There is at least one other case where what Trump said at a different rally comes a lot closer to inciting violence, and one case in which the defendants have claimed that Trump’s statements gave them implicit permission to be violent. Those will be closer cases, but this one was, as a legal matter, easy and inevitable. You can read the full ruling here.

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