Father must pay Westboro Baptist Church $16,500

Daily Record, Pennsylvania/March 30, 2010

Spring Garden resident Albert Snyder got a bill for $16,500 on Friday -- the latest result of his ongoing legal battle with the Westboro Baptist Church.

Church members are seeking to recoup costs from federal appeals court, which dismissed Snyder's lawsuit against them. Snyder's lawyer, Sean Summers, said the court declared last week that Snyder was responsible for the costs.

Efforts to reach an official from Westboro Baptist Church were unsuccessful Monday.

Such mandated reimbursements are common after appellate court cases, Summers said.

When the U.S. Supreme Court hears Snyder's case in the fall, its decision will ultimately make a big difference as to whether or not Snyder can eventually recoup that money, Summers said.

"It's rubbing salt in an open wound," Summers said.

The Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, led by Rev. Fred Phelps, preaches an anti-homosexual message. Members maintain that combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are God's retribution for America's tolerance of gay men and lesbian women.

Church members have promoted that agenda with a series of intentionally provocative demonstrations outside funerals of servicemen and women who were killed in combat, during which they chant and hold signs bearing messages such as "Thank God For Dead Soldiers."

Church members staged such a protest outside the funeral for Snyder's son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, in Westminster, Md. Snyder's son was killed in Iraq in 2006 when his Humvee overturned.

Snyder sued the protesters, and a Baltimore jury awarded him $5 million in damages for invasion of privacy and emotional distress. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision on First Amendment grounds in September 2009.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Philadelphia lawyer Howard Bashman, an expert in appellate law, said that the loser in appellate court cases typically compensate the winner for court costs. Those costs tend to be higher when the plaintiffs win, because they must supply a complete copy of the original court case.

The winners may decide not to go after that compensation, frequently because the legal costs involved in pursing the funds would be more than the money they could recoup, Bashman said.

FUNDING THE FUND - Local lawyer Sean Summers said the federal appellate court rejected arguments that Albert Snyder should not be assessed $16,500 in legal fees because he doesn't have the means to pay them.

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