In a decision likely to strike many observers as cruel, a federal appeals court ordered the father of a Marine killed in Iraq whose funeral drew protesters from a church notorious for such demonstrations to pay the church leader's $16,510 in legal fees.
As the Associated Press reported:
On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Snyder to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's funeral in 2006.
The two-page decision supplied by attorneys for Albert Snyder of York, Pa., offered no details on how the court came to its decision.
Attorneys also said Snyder is struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision adds "insult to injury," said Sean Summers, one of Snyder's lawyers.
The high court agreed to consider whether the protesters' message is protected by the First Amendment or limited by the competing privacy and religious rights of the mourners.
Snyder won his case against Westboro in the lower court but that decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in September.
Losers in such cases often are made to pay legal fees and the appeals court may have just been following that common practice. Still, just because it's what's commonly done, doesn't mean people accept it. Snyder is getting a lot of support on Facebook.