May 19, 2008


Court Upholds Law That Prohibits Promotion of Child Pornography (Robert Barnes, 5/19/08, Washington Post)

The Supreme Court today upheld Congress's most recent attempt to prosecute those who would promote child pornography, ruling that the law did not violate free speech guarantees.

The court voted 7 to 2 that the law criminalizing "pandering" of real or purported child pornography over the Internet or through the mail met constitutional standards. [...]

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and other groups had asked the court to overturn the law, saying it would restrict protected speech and allow prosecution of individuals even if actual child pornography did not exist.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who filed a concurring opinion, said he was convinced that material with "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value" would still be protected. That is because of the law's requirement that the "defendant actually believed, or intended to induce another to believe, that the material in question depicted real children" involved in sexual conduct.

Justice David H. Souter dissented, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined him.

"Perhaps I am wrong, but without some demonstration that juries have been rendering exploitation of children unpunishable, there is no excuse for cutting back on the First Amendment and no alternative to finding overbreadth in this act," Souter wrote.

Supreme Court upholds law on child pornography (David G. Savage, 5/19/08, Los Angeles Times)
Separately, the court restored the full 22-year prison term for the so-called millennium bomber who was convicted of trying to set off explosives at Los Angeles International Airport.

Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian native, was arrested in December 1999 when he tried to cross from Canada into the United States near Seattle. He had a trunk full of explosives and was convicted of several terrorism offenses.

Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned part of his sentence. But in an 8-1 ruling, the justices restored the full sentence.

It is anticonstitutional to imagine that the First Amendment is even implicated in pornography restrictions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 19, 2008 2:45 PM

Justice David H. Souter dissented

There's an appointment we'll never get back. Personally, I blame New Hampshire.

Posted by: Ibid at May 19, 2008 5:11 PM

Souter and Ginsburg were the judges Obama named when asked what kind of judge he would appoint to the court. This ought to really help him in the red states.

Posted by: msmary at May 19, 2008 5:12 PM

First Carlton Fisk, then David Souter. Has any other state in the union produced two figures as nefarious?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 19, 2008 5:49 PM

That's what libertarianism looks like.

Posted by: oj at May 19, 2008 6:19 PM

Jim in Chicago:

Well, I do remember that some White House official said Souter would be a "home run for conservatives." If only the outcomes had been switched...

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 19, 2008 6:37 PM

Ahmed Ressam

Hmmm. That doesn't sound like a Japanese name or even a Polish name.

Posted by: pchuck at May 19, 2008 10:31 PM