Sunday, February 27, 2005

Where's Alanis When You Really Need Her?

I'm like Winona Ryder in Reality Bites (1994) when Anne Meara challenges her to define irony and she's reduced to the Potter Stewart defense: I can't tell you what it is but I know it when I see it. Irony is such an overworked and abused word I try never to use it because of its slipperiness.

But today I break my rule. Judge Gary Lancaster of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a ruling in a criminal pornography case that not merely threw out the indictment, he declared the Federal pornography statute unconsitutional, based on his reading of Lawrence v. Texas.

The dismissal (available here ) came in the case of United States v. Extreme Associates where a California couple was selling videotapes and providing clips of them on a password protected web-site. In an abuse of venue, the Feds went after them not in the Western District of California, where they resided, but in Pennsylvania. (It's not unlike when the U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Tennessee indicted the performers in Deep Throat in Memphis, a place they had no connection to.) I guess the prosecutors' strategy backfired.

Now the opinion is largely tacit on just what the defendants had done, the judge referring to the indictment. But that indictment, which describes just what sort of videos they were peddling, is blocked by filtering software. Documents on a First Amendment case censored. It's ironic, don't you think?<


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