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U.S. Supreme Court 04-23-10

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by: Abassos • April 22, 2010 • no comments

Read the full article for details about the following new cases:

  • Animal Cruelty
  • Sexting

A couple noteworthy items from the high Court this week:

First, they struck down a federal statute that outlawed the depiction of animal cruelty. The law was aimed at dog fighting and crush videos (in which women are recorded crushing kittens and other small animals with their high heels). The defendant in this case was convicted of disseminating dog fighting videos. The Court found that the law was overbroad - that it may be possible to criminalize crush and dog fighting videos but this law did much more. Hunting videos, for example, would fall squarely within the law. The Court rejected the government's argument that animal cruelty falls outside the scope of the First Amendment, like obscenity and fraud. Chief Justice Roberts called the government's argument in that regard "startling and dangerous". Score one for the Chief Justice. U.S. v. Stevens (Here's Nina Totenberg on Stevens.)

Earlier in the week, oral arguments on a sexting case revealed something more important about the Chief Justice and his colleagues: they know frighteningly little about technology. In a scene reminiscent of Ted "The internet is a series of tubes" Stevens attempting to regulate the web, the Chief Justice actually asked what the difference was between e-mail and a pager. Justice Kennedy asked if it's possible to send and receive a text at the same time. Justice Scalia was baffled by the idea of service providers and fixated on the question of whether texts could be printed and passed out. As Bronson James pointed out on the pond:

Holy hell, I always knew the law lagged behind technology by a couple decades, but the exchange with the high court in the sexting case heard this week was way, way, worse than I could have imagined. Those people have not even a remedial grasp of the modern world, how it works, and how 90% of us are using it.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court knew about kitten crushing videos before I did - so maybe it's just a matter of priorities.