The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, April 06, 2004
 

Forgotten Virginia net smut law: a win for our side!


Mooching around early editions of the Plawg, I come across an October 30 2002 piece which mentions the case of PSINet v Chapman.

The Virginia statute in question purported to criminalise the commercial provision of smut, as defined, to minors via the net. I evidently had thought the case was a goner, since the statute had already been found unconstitutional on summary judgement.

However, I see that, in fact, the Fourth Circuit delivered its decision (PDF) only on March 25 this year.

The law was held, 2-1, to infringe not only the First Amendment but also the Commerce Clause. (The dissent I've yet to read.)

According to a WaPo piece on the decision, the state has not yet decided whether to appeal: I suspect that, if it does, it will be a rehearing en banc, rather than seeking certiorari from the Supreme Court - I'm disinclined to check the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure right now!

Meanwhile, we are still awaiting the ruling of the US Supreme Court in the Ashcroft v ACLU case - which covers much the same ground in relation to a Federal statute.

And the case of the Pennsylvania web-blocking case [1] - the law there compels ISPs (exempt from the Virginia law) to bar access to child pornography to their in-state customers - before the US District Court is ongoing: oral argument set for May 14.

The constitutional challenge of the law on broadcast indecency - and, let it not be forgotten, profanity, too - and its enforcement by the FCC is still mythical. I've seen no signs, at least. (But then, I missed the PSINet good news.)

  1. On which I thought I'd done a piece: can't find it!

MORE

For keeping track of what's up with the Supremes, SCOTUSBlog is very handy. For instance, it tips us off that the next probable opinion day will be April 22.


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