Arizona joins coalition asking Supreme Court to allow states to ban threats of violence

Apr 3, 2023, 12:29 PM | Updated: 1:16 pm

(Pixabay Photo)...

(Pixabay Photo)

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes joined a bipartisan coalition involving 25 states and the District of Columbia calling on the Supreme Court to allow states to ban threats of violence.

In an amicus brief filed Friday backing Colorado in Counterman v. Colorado, the coalition claims the First Amendment doesn’t “protect statements that an objectively reasonable person would understand as being serious threats to inflict violence.”

The case, which is pending with the Supreme Court, involves a Colorado man who was convicted of stalking a singer-songwriter after he sent her death threats over the course of two years, according to a press release.

The Supreme Court will have to decide if the man’s statements were protected, and therefore couldn’t be used to convict him. Counterman argues the state is required in a criminal case to prove that he intended to frighten the victim, the release said.

“Threats of violence are not protected under the First Amendment, and Arizonans have a right to feel safe and secure in their communities,” Mayes said in the release.

“In a time of increasing threats to public servants, including election workers, it is particularly important that states have the ability to protect their residents from violence and intimidation.

In recent years, Arizona and other states’ election officials have been the targets of threats.

Since the 2020 election, multiple statewide and county elections officials left their posts, some citing threats as a cause.

In another instance, during the 2022 general election, a person told a Maricopa County elections worker “someone should shoot you in the head.”

The attorneys general also claim the choice to use a subjective or objective standard before enforcing a penalty has always been left to the states, and that they are not required to use subjective standards such as requiring proof of a speaker’s intent to threaten.

“I urge the Supreme Court to allow states to use an objective standard in regulating threats of violence, so we can continue to safeguard our communities and those who serve them,” Mayes said.

Mayes joined attorneys general from Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming, along with Connecticut’s chief state’s attorney.

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Arizona joins coalition asking Supreme Court to allow states to ban threats of violence