Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union case brief

Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union case brief summary
521 U.S. 844 (1997)

An appeal was taken from an order of a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania enjoining enforcement of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C.S. § 223, as violating the U.S. Constitutional amends. I and V.

After Congress passed the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), 47 U.S.C.S. § 223, appellees sought a declaratory judgment deeming it an unconstitutional violation of U.S. Constitutional amends. I and V. Appellants challenged the ruling of a three-judge federal district court panel that enjoined enforcement of the CDA.


  • The Court upheld the district court's judgment on First Amendment grounds declining to reach the Fifth Amendment question. 
  • The Court found that: 
  • (a) the CDA's vague provisions chilled free speech since speakers could not be certain if their speech was proscribed; 
  • (b) the CDA's provisions criminalized legitimate protected speech (including sexually explicit indecent speech) as well as unprotected obscene speech, and thus were overinclusive; 
  • (c) since the CDA regulated a fundamental freedom, it must be narrowly tailored; 
  • (d) time, place, and manner analysis was inapplicable since the CDA regulated the content of speech, not how it was presented; and 
  • (e) the CDA was unconstitutional due to its overbreadth.
Judgment was affirmed in part; the Communications Decency Act of 1996 violated the First Amendment due to its being overbroad.

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