Monday, August 2, 2010

Disgusting but Not Illegal

New York Times
August 1, 2010

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who has become one of the First Amendment’s most adamant defenders, led the Supreme Court earlier this year in refusing to create a new exception to the free speech clause. With only one dissent, the court struck down a law that banned depictions of animal cruelty. The House has come back with a replacement bill that is an improvement over its predecessor but still misses the constitutional point Justice Roberts made.

Historically, the Supreme Court has recognized only a small handful of exceptions to free speech. As Justice Roberts explained in his opinion in April, the court has long held that government can ban obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement and speech integral to criminal conduct, a category that includes child pornography. When Congress tried to add depiction of animal cruelty to this list, the court balked.