ILNews

Judge strikes down new obscene-material law

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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On the day a new Indiana law was set to take effect, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker struck it down as being unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, and a violation of the First Amendment.

The 31-page ruling was issued by the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, this afternoon in Big Hat Books, et al. v. Prosecutors, 1:08-CV-00596, a challenge to House Enrolled Act 1042 that would have required any person or organization wanting to sell literature or other material deemed harmful to minors under Indiana law to register with the Secretary of State and pay a $250 filing fee.

Plaintiffs, which included the Indianapolis Museum of Art, booksellers, and multiple publishing organizations, claimed that the new law is unconstitutionally vague, an unjustified content-based restriction on activity that is protected, is irrational and violates due process, and is a content-based punitive tax on First Amendment protected materials.

Judge Barker granted final summary judgment in the case, holding that it "unduly burdens First Amendment rights, and is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad."

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana that had filed the suit, applauded the decision.

"This emphasizes the fact that it's incumbent on the legislature to think about the First Amendment and constitutional rights when they're drafting legislation," he said. "We hope that will happen more in the future."

This story will be updated in Wednesday's Indiana Lawyer Daily and the July 9 issue of Indiana Lawyer.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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