Supreme Court Mulls Constitutional Right to Shout “Fire” in an Empty Theater

February 17, 2011 9:00 am
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Supreme Court Mulls Constitutional Right to Shout “Fire” in an Empty Theater

In a decision expected to be handed down Thursday, the Supreme Court will rule on whether the First Amendment grants citizens the right to falsely shout “fire” in an empty theater and cause panic and alarm among little to no theater patrons.

The defendant, Robert Dansby, was charged by the owner of his local theater after he intentionally and premeditatedly yelled “FIRE” during a poorly-attended showing of The Last Airbender this past summer. Despite the fear and turmoil this caused among the sparse crowd, Dansby did not consider it a transgression of his Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

“The rulings of the Supreme Court on earlier cases clearly indicate that the Constitution grants American citizens the freedom to consciously frighten and deceptively alarm innocent, unsuspecting civilians, so long as the congregated mass does not amount to the density of a ‘crowd,’” Dansby explained through his attorney.

Theater owners are eagerly awaiting the decision, claiming that moviegoers already have to put up with Hollywood’s hackneyed plots and pretentious personalities, and having fictitious fire alarms interrupting movies would just be an added detriment to the film industry.

Legal commentators are also curious about the outcome of this case, which they believe hinges on the age-old legal question, “If FIRE is exclaimed in a movie theater, but nobody is around to hear it, does it produce alarm?”

Dansby urges all American citizens to exercise their Constitutional right by going to theaters and making false declarations about fire at sparsely-attended movies. The defendant explains, “Look for upcoming new releases like JustinBieber: Never Say Never 3D (2/11), Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (2/18), and Jane Eyre (3/11), which should provide plenty of empty auditoriums in which to engage in this critical civic duty.”

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