Unusual Trump ‘Incitement’ Ruling Wasn’t Just About One Rally But a ‘Multitude’

In How We Behave, Judiciary and Courts On

t’s one thing for partisans and talking heads to claim that Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric in Kentucky one night in March 2016, specifically his instructions to “get ’em out of here,” incited violence against the protesters he wanted removed.

It’s wholly another for a federal judge, constrained by the First Amendment’s right to free speech among other things, to find such a claim sufficiently plausible to allow a lawsuit to go forward accusing Trump of inciting to riot, as Kentucky U.S. District Judge David J. Hale did in a decision Friday.

Not only did Hale find that Trump and his campaign may be responsible for inciting a riot, he found that they plausibly “had a duty” to prevent violence that they failed to uphold, opening them to negligence charges.

The judge’s decision may be reversed on appeal, but even if it isn’t, those who sued will bear a heavy burden in making their case. The whole situation, as with almost everything Trumpian, is surely unprecedented.

Indeed, considering the high barriers the Supreme Court has erected to protect even the most inflammatory speech, the decision was startling. Few such cases survive, and this one may not, either.

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