Originally created 07/02/96

Government appealsruling to Supreme Court



Associated Press
Web-posted July 1, 1996

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Justice Department appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to lift an injunction blocking the Communications Decency Act.

Three federal judges issued the injunction June 12, saying that the law, designed to punish the display of offensive material on the Internet, violates constitutional freedoms of speech.

The government used a fast-track clause built into the act to file its appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

The two-paragraph "Notice of Appeal" faxed to attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs did not discuss the grounds of the appeal, and calls to the Justice Department were not returned.

The contested law makes it a crime, punishable by prison time and hefty fines, to display "indecent" and "patently offensive" material in online areas accessible to minors.

Sen. Jim Exon, D-Neb., author of the law, said Sunday night he expected the law to get a more "thoughtful and reasoned" decision this fall before the Supreme Court.

"The court in Philadelphia basically ignored existing laws," he said. "It's wrong to hand out pornography to children on street corners and it's wrong to do it in cyberspace as well."

But ACLU attorney Chris Hansen said he was encouraged by the Supreme Court's ruling Friday that struck down key portions of a 1992 cable-television indecency law as violating free-speech rights.

"I'm very optimistic," Hansen said. "We will be dealing with some of the very same issues."

The case combined two lawsuits filed by 57 groups including the nation's three largest online services, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apple, Microsoft and the American Library Association.