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COPA Judge says…

"[P]erhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection"

Mar 23, 2007 COPA Judge says…

Bill of Rights. (From the public domain.)

Yesterday, March 22, United States District Court Judge Lowell A. Reed, Jr., courageously and wisely struck down the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) by granting a permanent injunction against its enforcement. ACLU v. Gonzales, Civ. No. 98-5591 (E.D. Pa. March 22, 2007).

COPA seeks to prevent minors — and consequently adults, too, since the Internet does not have a way to know whether an adult or minor is surfing from a particular computer — from viewing sexually explicit material on the Internet.

Judge Reed’s opinion strikes down COPA as a vague and overbroad statute that violates the First Amendment. Near the end of Judge Reed’s lengthy opinion, I was pleased to hear him re-state a view similar to one that I frequently express:

“’I without hesitation acknowledge the duty imposed on the Court [as Justice Kennedy observed] and the greater good such duty serves. Indeed, perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.’ [ACLU v. Reno, 31 F. Supp.2d 473, 498 (E.D. Pa. 1999)].” Similarly, I often talk about the bad civics lesson of trampling on the Constitution, which lawmakers and government officials often do in the belief they are helping society, rather than with the specific intention of shredding the Constitution; for instance I have said: “If a convicted person is going to be put in prison, it is a bad civics and rehabilitation lesson to over-censor the prisoner.”

The Justice Department of Alberto Gonzales (how long he stays there is anybody’s guess) will certainly appeal this ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union — whose membership card I have proudly carried for over two decades, on whose local board I served for three years, and to which our law firm proudly donates funds annually — most certainly will continue its powerful fight against COPA. Thanks in many respects to you, ACLU, the Constitution is working. Jon Katz.

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