This case arises from what is apparently a long-running feud between Anthony Stamness and Christian Svedberg, both minors…. Testimony indicated that Stamness and others referred to Svedberg as “Dumbo,” a cartoon elephant with unusually large ears, and Stamness had, on one occasion, stated, “You had better watch it Dumbo or I will kill you.”
In addition Stamness, along with others, constructed three large snow figures that were prominently displayed throughout the community of Northwood. All of the snow figures were constructed with very large ears. After hearing the evidence the court concluded that these threats and taunts, harassment, and construction of snow figures were intended to adversely affect the safety, security, and privacy of Svedberg. As a result the court ordered that “Anthony Stamness shall have no contact with Christian Svedberg and shall cease or avoid the following specific conduct: Uninvited visits to the Petitioner, harassing phone calls to the Petitioner, calling the Petitioner abusive names (including “Dumbo”), or any other conduct which injures the Petitioner, either physically or emotionally, including the construction and public display of any effigy of Christian Svedberg.”
The court upholds the order, on the grounds that the defendant’s conduct, including the snow sculptures, were “fighting words” that justified the injunction. (Note that the injunction didn’t focus on threats, but also banned calling Svedberg “dumbo” and publicly displaying “any effigy” of Svedberg.)
Logic demands that when determining whether an expression constitutes fighting words, the age of the addressee must be taken into account. No one would argue that a different reaction is likely if a thirteen-year-old boy and a seventy-five-year-old man are confronted with identical fighting words….