Newrack indecency statute found constitutional
CALIFORNIA–The constitutionality of a state law forbidding sales of publications containing “harmful matter” in public places accessible to children was upheld by a unanimous U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Pasadena (9th Cir.) in early September.
“Harmful matter” is defined as material that appeals to prurient interests, “displays, depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct” and “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
A group of publishers, a newsrack company and a consumer originally challenged the constitutionality of the 1995 statute in a federal District Court in Los Angeles. They claimed the statute violated their First Amendment rights because the law would greatly interfere with the ability of publishers to sell publications based on their content. They also claimed the law could have been more narrowly tailored to suit its purpose of shielding children from viewing “adult-oriented” material.
After the District Court ruled in favor of the state, the plaintiffs appealed. The appellate panel affirmed the district court ruling, holding that the statute protects children in the state’s interest without violating adults’ First Amendment rights. The court also said the law is as narrowly tailored as possible.
The publishers filed for a rehearing before the full appellate court in late September. (Crawford v. Lungren; Media Counsel: Stanley Fleishman, Los Angeles)