Federal Court OKs ACLU Challenge to Library Internet Censorship Law; Trial Set for February 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA–Rejecting the government’s attempt to dismiss a challenge to a law that forces libraries to censor constitutionally protected speech online, a federal court here said today that a trial can go forward as planned on February 14, 2002.
“”We are delighted that the court today agreed that the profoundly important question of whether the government can block free speech in public libraries should not be decided without a full trial,”” said Chris Hansen, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the matter before a special three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court last Friday.
“”The court essentially recognized that our clients — who include libraries, library patrons and website authors nationwide — have valid fears that their access to socially valuable, protected speech will be cut off under this law,”” he added.
At issue is the Children’s Internet Protection Act, a federal law that ties crucial library funding to the mandated use of blocking programs on Internet terminals used by both adults and minors in public libraries.
The Court’s two-paragraph order rejected the government’s argument that the case should be dismissed on the basis that the challengers have no valid First Amendment claim.
Under the law, passed by Congress in December 2000, a three-judge panel appointed by the Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will hear the case; any appeal of the panel’s decision will go straight to the Supreme Court, which is required to hear challenges to this law. The three-judge panel consists of Chief Judge Edward Becker of the Third Circuit, and Judges John Fullam and Harvey Bartle III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The case is Multnomah County Library et al., vs. United States of America, et al., No. 01-CV-1322. The American Library Association has filed a similar challenge on behalf of its members; the two cases have been consolidated by the court and will be heard together.
Order in ALA v. US/Multnomah County Public Library v. US
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, INC., et al.
UNITED STATES, et al.
MULTNOMAH COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY, et al.
UNITED STATES, et al.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
July 26, 2001
A motion to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 12(b)(6) addresses only the sufficiency of a plaintiff’s pleading. After careful consideration of the pending motions and responses, we have concluded that plaintiffs’ complaints in these actions contain enough factual allegations to withstand dismissal. Plaintiffs are entitled to an opportunity to prove their allegations. It is therefore Ordered:
That the defendants’ Motions to Dismiss the Complaints are denied.
Edward R. Becker, Ch. J.
John P. Fullam, Sr. J.
Harvey Bartle III, J.
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