Larry Flynt died in February 2021. The provocateur was involved in two major Supreme Court cases: Keeton v Hustler (1983) and Hustler v Falwell (1988). I really enjoyed The People versus Larry Flynt. The film accurately reproduced the Supreme Court’s oral argument in the Falwell case. The actor who plays Justice Scalia read the official transcript almost verbatim.
Unfortunately, the film did not include Flynt’s bizarre behavior during the trial. Now we have even more insight. Vice Magazine sent a FOIA request to the FBI for Flynt’s files. Some of the stories are fools. Here are six highlights.
Flynt initially wanted to represent itself in Keeton, but the court denied this request. And Flynt had an outbreak in court!
At 10 a.m. that morning, Flynt arrived at the Supreme Court, surrounded by bodyguards. U.S. Marshals were prepared for an outbreak as Flynt had misbehaved in court in the past and delivered Flynt. As the judges closed the hearing, Flynt exclaimed, “Fuck this court! You denied me advice of my choice. I’m not going to be judged by nine assholes and one token cunt – damn motherfuckers!” According to a transcript of audio recorded by the court, which was part of the FBI file.
This colloquium does not appear in the Oyez transcript.
Joe DiGenova, who was the U.S. attorney for DC, offered this statement:
“On November 8, 1983, the dignity and propriety of the United States Supreme Court – pristine for nearly two centuries – was destroyed by the defendant’s deliberately outrageous behavior,” the episode was described in an indictment signed by Joe DiGenova, the then US – Attorney for the District of Columbia. DiGenova has been in the spotlight more recently as a pro-Trump analyst and Fox News regular.
Second, Flynt had a moment between Cohen and California. But his shirt didn’t say “Fuck the Draft”. It was called “Fuck this Court”.
Flynt tried to open his coat to reveal a t-shirt that read “Fuck This Court” underneath, but the Marshals quickly took him out of the room and into a side chamber, where he was arrested.
Third, Flynt had to use the toilet. However, since the court did not have wheelchair-accessible toilets, he was taken to a hospital!
Flynt, paralyzed from the waist down, told officers he needed to go to the bathroom, several affidavits revealed. However, since that was 1983, the Supreme Court bathrooms were not wheelchair accessible. Neither were the toilets with central booking. The only option was to take him to a hospital emergency room.
The officers tried to put him in a police car to take him to the hospital, but they could not bring him in with a wheelchair. A police cruiser did not work either. Then Flynt’s attorneys offered use of a limousine they had rented that day. The offer was accepted and Flynt was made to clang in style.
Fourth, Flynt later wore the same shirt as his district court. The government told Flynt never to go to the Supreme Court again.
Later that day, Flynt was brought before Judge Jean Dwyer in Washington for interfering with the court. He still arrived wearing the Fuck This Court shirt. According to a transcript of the case, which was included in Flynt’s file, the judge agreed to allow his release if he followed a prosecutor’s request not to go to the Supreme Court again.
Flynt turned down the First Amendment with rousing approval:
“Freedom of expression is absolute. The first amendment is the most important amendment to the Constitution. It cannot be compromised. You have no right to compromise it. Nor does the Supreme Court have the right to compromise it, even if I am As next, anyone responsible for perverting the constitution of this great country will be put in a glass cage and I’ll be selling tickets so people can come to Washington and see what wicked perverts really look like. “
Eventually, Flynt agreed not to attend the court while the contempt trial was pending. And he kept his shirt:
Dwyer told Flynt that the Supreme Court prohibition was not absolute, but only for the duration of the contempt trial against him. Then he agreed. Before the trial ended, prosecutors requested that Flynt’s shirt be used as evidence in the case. The judge said a photo of the offending shirt would be sufficient.
Fifth, we learn that before Keeton was arguing, Flynt sent Justice O’Connor a free subscription to Hustler magazine. In general, litigants are not allowed to have ex parte communication with judges. And litigants are definitely not allowed to give judges valuable gifts. Of course Flynt did both!
In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court hearing on the Keeton case, Flynt began sending Judge Sandra Day O’Connor a free subscription to Hustler.
O’Connor’s secretary wrote back asking Flynt to remove her from the list. Flynt refused.
A list on the file listing the following correspondence noted that O’Connor’s secretary wrote back to Flynt, asking Flynt to remove Justice from the magazine’s subscription list. Flynt replied, “Fuck you, cunt. I’ll take you off Hustler’s subscription list when you step down from court.” He then added them to the subscription list of other magazines he had published.
In 2016, I sent copies of my book Unraveled to all nine judges. I have received several thank you letters. Other judges did not send anything. Justice Sotomayor Secretary returned the book with a letter stating that she could not accept scriptures that affect pending litigation. I’ve framed this letter on my office wall with the other thank you notes. I trust Justice O’Connor’s secretary has returned every issue of Hustler to the publisher.
Sixth, there’s a crazy report of an attempt to put explosives in the tubes of Flynt’s wheelchair.
One file on the file of an unnamed informant alleged that Flynt had asked an alcoholic mercenary and a private investigator to help wire his wheelchair with explosives so that he would blow himself up during his 1983 Supreme Court hearing and all the judges could take away.
Flynt reportedly asked Mitch WerBell, a weapons expert who ran a guerrilla school in Georgia, and Gordon Novel, a private investigator, to fill the hollow metal tubes of his wheelchair with C-4 explosives impregnated with needles to get the maximum possible To make an impact, the informant said. The men refused, and WerBell later discussed swapping Flynt’s wheelchair before the hearing if he managed to convince someone else to do it for him, the informant said.
Prosecutors eventually decided not to charge Flynt with a crime, finding that any discussion of the detonation in the Supreme Court was an idle conversation.
Absolutely insane. What a litigator!