Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition case brief

Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition case brief summary
535 U.S. 234 (2002)

Respondents, an adult entertainment coalition and others, sued petitioners, the United States Attorney General and others, alleging that provisions of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 (CPPA), 18 U.S.C.S. § 2251 et seq., abridged free speech. Upon the grant of a writ of certiorari, petitioners challenged the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which held that the provisions were unconstitutional.

Respondents contended that the CPPA's ban on sexually explicit images that appeared to depict minors, but were not produced using minors, unconstitutionally proscribed protected speech. Petitioners argued that the prohibition of virtual child pornography was necessary to discourage the criminal conduct of pedophiles and to preclude a defense of virtual imaging in prosecuting actual child pornographers.

  • The United States Supreme Court held that the ban on virtual child pornography was unconstitutionally overbroad since it proscribed speech which was neither child pornography nor obscene and thus abridged the freedom to engage in a substantial amount of lawful speech. 
  • The visual depiction of teenage sexual activity was a common theme in acclaimed artistic works and a fact of modern society, and the CPPA unlawfully prohibited speech which recorded no crime and created no victims. 
  • Further, the unquantified potential for criminal conduct by pedophiles had merely a contingent and indirect causal connection to child abuse. 
  • Further, the government was not permitted to bar protected virtual child pornography as a means to enforce its proper ban of actual child pornography.
The judgment, finding that the ban on virtual child pornography was unconstitutional, was affirmed.

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