Preview of United States v. Stevens: Animal Law, Obscenity, and the Limits of Government Censorship
Charleston Law Review, Vol. 4, p. 59, 2009
20 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2009 Last revised: 10 Nov 2009
Date Written: 2009
This preview of United States v. Stevens will soon appear in the Charleston Law Review's annual Supreme Court Preview. Of those cases on the Supreme Court of the United States 2009-2010 docket, the one likely to generate the most media attention is United States v. Stevens. The case pits free speech against animal welfare, and, like many First Amendment cases, is creating some otherwise unlikely allies. As of this writing, twenty-two amicus briefs have been filed in the case, with hunters and publishers joining forces against animal protection advocates and law enforcement. Stevens is also legally significant in that the United States argues that interstate commercial use of depictions of animal cruelty may be banned because they cause social harms and lack any significant value. If the Court agrees, it could create a new category of unprotected speech, something it has not done since 1982, when it found that child pornography is unprotected speech in New York v. Ferber. This outcome would mark a significant shift in the Court’s recent trend to expand, not narrow, First Amendment protections. Ultimately, this case comes down to what the Court values more - protecting animals or protecting free expression. This preview details the arguments presented by both sides and discusses the long-term implications of the case on both animal law and the obscenity doctrine.
Keywords: Obscenity, First Amendment, Free Speech, Animal Law, Pornography
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