« "A Smarter (and Cost-Efficient) Way to Fight Crime" | Main | "Parents in prayer death get probation, some jail" »

October 6, 2009

Justices troubled by constitutionality of "animal porn" federal criminal statute

This report from SCOTUSblog, titled "Analysis: Animal cruelty law in trouble," confirms my instinct that many Justices would have deep concerns about the federal criminal law that  prohibit what I like to call "animal porn."  Here is the start of Lyle Denniston's report on today's oral argument in US v. Stevens:

Congress’ attempt ten years ago to ban animal cruelty, by banning video and other depictions of it, had its first constitutional test in the Supreme Court Tuesday, and appeared to have failed.  Despite efforts by an Obama Administration lawyer to show that Congress wrote carefully and narrowly, most of the Justices strongly implied that the law probably goes too far — or at least was so vague that no one can know just what is illegal.  Only one Justice, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., seemed tempted to support the law as is.

The full transcript of oral argument in United States v. Stevens (08-769) is available here.

October 6, 2009 at 05:48 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20120a5c6fa4b970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Justices troubled by constitutionality of "animal porn" federal criminal statute:

Comments

"Only one Justice, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., seemed tempted to support the law as is."
....
When it comes to non-capital issues, Alito is the most pro-Government Justice on the bench. He's a reliable government vote in most criminal cases. Do others disagree? I genuinely want to know if others agree with this viewpoint.

Posted by: question | Oct 6, 2009 6:33:56 PM

The biggest issue with this case is that it just makes the court's position of child porn just look more and more extreme and indefensible.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 6, 2009 6:44:13 PM

Even the questions about human sacrifice don't seem very apt to me. I have seen film of several murders broadcast on TV. None particularly gruesome, but still the act in progress and not just the after-scene. I've also seen film of the last public execution in France, which was apparently the motivating factor for moving them behind closed doors.

As far as I am aware CP is the only material where the documentation of a crime is itself criminal to possess. Given how the demand driven supply model appears to be invalid for this market I find that rationale very troublesome.

As for Alito I tend to agree. Although I find all of the justices to be too pro-government for my tastes.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 6, 2009 9:41:20 PM

Did the recording of the Rodney King beating increase the beatings of black motorists or decrease them?

The question has no general answer. Recordings may suppress an activity as well as promote it. The effect also depends on viewer mental state. Depiction of cruelty may inspire some to oppose it, others to relish it.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 7, 2009 5:02:44 AM

"In child pornography, Justice Ginsburg said, “the very taking of the picture is the offense — that’s the abuse of the child.” In dogfighting, by contrast, she continued, “the abuse of the dog and the promotion of the fight is separate from the filming of it.”

That's from an AP article on the oral argument.

I never had a huge amount of respect of Justice Ginsburg before and it just went through the floor. If there is any reality to the phrase "a distinction without a difference" Ginsburg's thinking is a beautiful illustration of it.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 7, 2009 12:15:05 PM

It's not at all indefensible. Rational persons understand that harm to children is a far greater problem than harm to dogs. A dog will not even be aware that his fight is being filmed and shared on the Internet. But, of course, when everyone starts to feel for the cute widdle puppie, rationality goes out the window.

Posted by: Buffalo Bill | Oct 7, 2009 6:31:21 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB