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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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