Citation: decision filed an amicus brief and appealed

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Last updated: September 16, 2019

Citation: Ashcroft V. Free Speech Coalition 535 U.

S. 234 (2002) Parties: John D. Ashcroft, Attorney General, et al., Plaintiffs / Appellants  The Free Speech Coalition et al.  Defendant / AppelleeFacts: On October 30, 2001, the Free Speech Coalition, which is a trade association of the adult and pornography industry within the United States, who opposes enforcement of a number of censorship and obscenity laws , argued their case against Attorney General John D.

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Ashcroft and the United States Government, which stated two sections of the Child Pornography Protection Act were unconstitutional on the basis that it was a violation of the First Amendment , and infringed upon their rights of producing and distributing certain works of theirs.  The Free Speech Coalition claimed that these two sections of the CPPA redefined child pornography, which prohibited stimulated sexual acts in which adults appeared to look like minors engaging in simulated and/or actual sexual acts.    Procedural History: In late January of 1997, the Free Speech Coalition brought forth a lawsuit in a federal court in San Francisco California, seeking a declaratory judgment on the basis of unconstitutionality in regard to the Child Pornography Protection Act.   In early August of 1997, the court denied the Free Speech Coalition’s declaratory judgment and granted Attorney General John D. Ashcroft’s summary judgment motion.   The Free Speech Coalition filed an appeal, and by a vote of 2-1, in December of 1999, the Ninth Circuit Panel, found the CPPA unconstitutional.   Attorney General Ashcroft and the United States government appealed this decision, and four additional other Courts of Appeals sustained it.

   The FSC not satisfied with this decision filed an amicus brief and appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and the United States government then filed an en banc petition rehearing before the Ninth Circuit, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied this petition.

   The United States Supreme Court then proceeded by granting a writ of certiorari, and the FSC began arguing their case in October of 2001.  They focused on § 2256(8)(B) which bans pornography that depicts minors, even though computer technology or adults with youthful looks were used, and not real children and §2256(8)(D) which bans the production and/or distribution of pornography that could be seen as representing child pornography.   The FSC stated, these two provisions of the CPPA are broad and vague, and made works protected by the First Amendment illegal.   Issues: Issue 1: Does § 2256(8)(B) and §2256(8)(D) of the Child Pornography Protection Act violate the First Amendment, making the Child Pornography Protection Act unconstitutional?Holdings: Issue 1:  Yes, § 2256(8)(B) and §2256(8)(D) of the Child Pornography Protection Act is unconstitutional since it violates the First Amendment.  Reasoning:  The Court of Appeals reasoned that § 2256(8)(B) and §2256(8)(D) of the Child Pornography Protection Act are unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment, as these sections are much too vague and a person that is of normal intelligence, would not be able to conclude adequately what the CPPA prohibited.

   Issue 1: Decision: In April of 2002, by a vote of 2-1, the panel of the Ninth Circuit (Court of Appeals), found in favor of The Free Speech Coalition, agreeing that the Child Pornography Protection Act was unconstitutional.   Comments: The Court of Appeals found in favor of the Free Speech Coalition.   Pornographic images of videos that depict minors, even if they are actually adults or technological enhanced images or video, can give pedophiles a sense of security and continue to allow production of pornographic materials that can endanger the well-being of children.  The Court of Appeals should have been more detailed with their explanation of the decision and not decide the two above mentioned sections of the CPPA were unconstitutional and striking them, but requiring the CPPA to alter the meaning of these sections instead.  

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