Justices Chit Chat about Depictions of Animal Cruelty

Should it be protected by the First Amendment?..

U.S. Supreme Court Justices Pose For Group Photo

The Supreme Court is back and in full effect as the Justices expressed concerns over a law banning depictions of animal cruelty. From The Wall Street Journal:

Justice Scalia repeatedly criticized the government’s effort to liken animal cruelty videos to child pornography — which, like other forms of obscenity, receives no First Amendment protections under earlier court decisions.

“This is something quite different,” he said. Hunting and other practices that wound or kill animals, sometimes painfully, are neither prurient nor, in some places, illegal, Justice Scalia observed.

“What if I am an aficionado of bullfights and I think, contrary to the animal cruelty people, that they ennoble both beast and man,” Justice Scalia said. “I would not be able to market videos showing people how exciting a bullfight is.”

In the only successful prosecution under the law, a Virginia man, Robert Stevens, was convicted for compiling and selling dog-fighting videos.

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia struck down the law, and the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court.

The government argues that the law is constitutional because it exempts works with “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.”

In their questions, Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor also seemed troubled by the animal cruelty law, pointing out what they thought were its inconsistencies or vagueness.