Monday, June 15, 2009

Attorney General McCollum, HSUS file briefs urging Supreme Court to find that depictions of animal cruetly are not free speech

Florida's Attorney General Bill McCollum filed an amicus brief today urging the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision from last year that found that depictions of animal cruelty are protected speech. The lower court struck down 18 U.S.C. § 48, which prohibited the commercial distribution of such depictions except for those with serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.

Florida took the lead on filing on behalf of the states, and notably twenty five other states joined Florida's brief. The Attorney General is quoted in the press release:
"Animal fighting is a serious crime, violent and heinous in nature, and depictions of that and other extreme animal cruelty should indeed be prohibited under the federal law. I supported this law in Congress and I am honored to have the chance to do so again as Florida's Attorney General."
The Humane Society of the United States also filed an amicus brief today and both briefs are available at the Attorney General's website as pdf downloads. The AG's brief on behalf of Florida and the other states is available here. HSUS's brief is available here. I highly recommend reading both in their entirety, but I was particularly glad to see that the AG's brief focused on the difficulty of enforcing animal cruelty laws across state lines and the gap that the federal law was specifically designed to fill.

As frequent readers of this blog may remember, the law was originally enacted to stem the proliferation of "crush" videos, or fetish videos where small animals would be killed by women wearing high heel shoes. At the time I questioned the Third Circuit's ruling and hopefully the high court will now take a critical look at the issue. Aside from the need to prevent the suffering of animals, the law already contained exceptions protecting legitimate uses.

Previous posts on the Stevens case:

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