Here are some selections from varying news sources. it appears that the decision won't come for months but it does seem that his conviction, which has already been overturned by the Federal Appeals Court and which is what is being reviewed, will remain overturned as un-Constitutionally overly broad and a violation of Bob Stevens' First Amendment Right to free speech and expression. this is another great hero here who had the guts to take it all the way and fight for all of our rights to remain untrampled by nazi-like h$u$ hysteria against thought/speech "crimes". Even Ginsburg and Breyer seem not to favor the "humane" society driven government position on this. these are highlights I liked of many articles.
The case is about dogfighting videos, but critics argue that it could apply to anything from photos in Field and Stream magazine or hunting videos, to Arnold Schwarzenegger punching a camel in Conan the Barbarian.
The law, however, has broad language. It makes it a crime to possess or sell any depiction of animal cruelty ’ specifically the killing, wounding, torturing or mutilation of an animal ’ as long as the conduct is illegal in the place where the prosecution is brought.
Stevens appealed his conviction, contending that the animal cruelty depiction law is unconstitutional, and a federal appeals court agreed. The court said the law was written so broadly that it could lead to up to five years imprisonment for selling a video featuring bullfighting in Spain, where it is legal, or hunting or fishing out of season in the U.S.
"The whole point of the Constitution is that it's not supposed to change just because a majority in Congress decides that it no longer thinks these images are, on balance, worthwhile," Millett says. "That's a pretty empty First Amendment, and it's never been the First Amendment that we've had in this country."
And indeed, films considerably more gruesome than the Stevens videos are on the humane society Web site to illustrate that dogfighting is reprehensible. That leads critics to argue that Stevens wasn't prosecuted because of his video, but because of his viewpoint (pitchick's emphasis) and the notion that despite his disclaimers, he was promoting dogfighting.
"I don't know that hunting videos can be guaranteed that their image will be decided by a jury somewhere in the country to have serious value. Hunting is banned in the District of Columbia," Millett says.
The NRA notes that dove hunting is illegal in 10 states, so that under this statute, dove hunting photos in magazines or on TV would also be illegal in those states.
Critics also worry that a bullfighting scene from the film The Sun Also Rises, which is based on the Hemingway novel, or the scene of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian punching a camel might someday be prosecuted as a crime.
And producers would have to spend oodles of money to convince a jury of the "serious value" of the film being prosecuted. As one lawyer puckishly put it, with Conan the Barbarian, "serious value" might be a stretch.
One of the chief sponsors of the animal cruelty statute, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), defends the bill on other grounds: He says that most serial killers started out torturing animals before they moved on to people.
"My objective here was to try to prevent the Ted Bundys and Jeffrey Dahmers and others from graduating as they did," Gallegly says.
Millett scoffs at that argument.
"There is no evidence whatsoever that the viewing of images of animals being wounded or killed causes people to become serial killers. If it did, we better ban hunting by children, too, and no one says that," Millett says.
If Congress wants to ban crush videos, she says, it can write a statute aimed specifically at that. Instead, she says, Congress, albeit it with caveats, banned all videos depicting the intentional wounding and killing of animals.
"That is using a bazooka to kill a gnat. And the First Amendment makes Congress go get the fly swatter," Millett says.
Just how the justices will react to this case promises to be interesting. There almost certainly are dog lovers on the court ’ and hunters. Indeed, Justice Antonin Scalia has a wild boar's head on the wall in his basement. It is unknown whether he used a dog to catch and hold the animal during the hunt, a commonly used technique illustrated in one of Stevens' films.
Last year, a federal appeals court, citing freedom of speech, struck down a law against selling videos with scenes of animal cruelty. Today, most of the justices sounded unwilling to revive that law, fearing it may be used against depictions of bullfighting or illegal hunting.
Justice Antonin Scalia, an avid hunter, insisted the 1st Amendment did not allow the government to limit speech and expression, unless it involved sex or obscenity.
"It's not up to the government to tell us what are our worst instincts," said Scalia. He repeatedly cited German dictator Adolf Hitler and his policies of extermination. Scalia asked, "Can you keep him off the screen" just because his deeds were vile?
What about "snuff films," asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The lawyer defending a Virginia man convicted of selling dog-fighting videos struggled to answer the question. She said the 1st Amendment usually protects speech and expression, even if the underlying conduct is ugly or illegal. She said the government should work to stop the illegal acts, rather than make it illegal to show the acts.
By the argument's end, the justices seemed to be weighing two possibilities. One was to narrow the reach of the law to focus only on the "crush videos." The other was to strike down the law entirely because it infringed too much on the 1st Amendment.
A ruling in the case, U.S. vs. Stevens, is not likely for several months.
Supreme Court justices, skeptical of a law aimed at graphic animal cruelty videos, touched Tuesday on dog fights, bull fights, cock fights, bow-and-arrow hunting, even a hypothetical television channel devoted to human sacrifice. Oh, yes, and freedom of speech.
In the end, the justices appeared inclined to agree that the law is too broad and could, in some instances, apply to videos about hunting.
"Why not do a simpler thing?" Justice Stephen Breyer asked an administration lawyer. "Ask Congress to write a statute that actually aims at the frightful things they were trying to prohibit."
Millett said Congress has to be very careful when restricting speech and must use a "scalpel, not a buzz saw."
It was Alito who asked about the human sacrifice channel, while Justice Anthony Kennedy chimed in with a scenario involving the airing of live pit bull fights in movie theaters, with a $10 charge for tickets.
The questions were intended to test the limits of First Amendment freedoms ’ and the right of Congress to intervene ’ in matters that most people would find offensive.
Justice Antonin Scalia was having none of it. In the area of free speech, Scalia said, "it's not up to the government to decide what are people's worst instincts."
Scalia also pointed out that opponents of animal fighting may feel more free to use the images to express their views than proponents. "People who like bull fighting, who like dog fighting, who like cock fighting ... that side of the debate is entitled to make its point as forcefully as possible," he said.
Stevens noted in court papers that his sentence was 14 months longer than professional football player Michael Vick's prison term for running a dogfighting ring.
A decision is expected by the spring.
The case is U.S. v. Stevens, 08-769.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked "Tell me what the difference is between these (Steven's) videos and David Roma's documentary on pit bulls? I mean, David Roma's documentary had much, much more footage on the actual animal cruelty than the films at issue here, greater sections of the film, and more explicit."
Chief Justice John Roberts asked, "You have to look at the content to determine whether or not the speech is prohibited. How can you tell these aren't political videos? With organizations like PETA and others, depictions of the same sort of animal cruelty that is used to generate support for efforts to prohibit it. Why aren't these videos the exact opposite of efforts to legalize it?"
of course the answer to the question regarding the human sacrifice channel is that the difference is it involves humans as the victims and humans are considered to have basic human rights which include not being killed, animals do not have that. just think about steak.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wanted to know if Congress could ban a ‘Human Sacrifice Channel‘ on cable television.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked about videos of cockfighting.
‘What about hunting with a bow and arrow out of season?‘ Justice John Paul Stevens asked.
‘What if I am an aficionado of bullfights,‘ Justice Antonin Scalia wondered, ‘and I think, contrary to the animal cruelty people, they ennoble both beast and man?‘
And Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked about ‘stuffing geese for pÃ¢tÃ© de foie gras.‘
Mr. Katyal reminded the justices that the case before them concerned videos of dogfights and that the law itself was mainly prompted by so-called crush videos, which cater to a sexual fetish. Those videos show women in high heels stepping on small animals.
Justice Scalia said the law violates the First Amendment by treating speech condemning depictions of animals fighting more favorably than speech celebrating the fighting. Mr. Stevens’s ‘message is that getting animals to fight is fun,‘ Justice Scalia said.
The hypothetical Human Sacrifice Channel came up late in the argument. Justice Alito described how it would work.
‘Suppose that it is legally taking place someplace in the world,‘ he said.
Ms. Millett haltingly said that Congress could not ban such a channel solely on the ground that it was offensive.
Mr. Katyal, to the apparent surprise of some of the justices, agreed, saying the First Amendment would not permit a law banning such a channel unless it could be shown that the depictions made the sacrifices more likely. The distastefulness of the depictions alone would not justify the ban.
note that the government's lawyer does not think such a law as this would apply to humans but is fighting for its application to animals.
I wanted to be sure that people saw in this article that Stevens used a Public Defender for the beginning of this, for those that think you have to pay a lot of money to a lawyer.
here new justice Sotomayor makes an incredibly powerful argument with an extremely simple question, the intent of the law, and this government lawyer either doesn't know or doesn't care that the making of their argument invalidates it. good stuff.
Also in the courtroom were U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, Mr. Stevens' federal public defender, Michael J. Novara, and Third Circuit Judges Thomas M. Hardiman and D. Michael Fisher.
Newcomer Justice Sonia Sotomayor posed the first question of the day, asking Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal about the congressional intent of the law.
Free speech supporters have argued that the statute could be misapplied and used to censor hunting magazines, documentaries on a wide range of subjects from Native American history to animal cruelty and anything in between.
But Mr. Katyal said the original goal of Congress in passing the 1999 law was a deluge of some 3,000 "crush videos," used by sexual fetishists, that had been circulating..
Mr. Katyal admitted that the law has never been used to prosecute anyone for a crush video.
But the justices repeatedly asked each side if under the law in question, certain images could be prosecuted. Justice Antonin Scalia spoke about bullfighting. Justice Stephen Breyer raised other examples -- quail hunting; the slaughter of animals; deer or bear hunting; as well as the stuffing of geese to make fois gras.
Mr. Katyal tried to alleviate those concerns by stating the history of the statute.
"We have had 10 years of experience, Justice Breyer, under the statute, and we haven't seen those things being chilled."
He warned the court not to get caught up in what could happen.
(pitchick says: ah, but apparently it already has "chilled" speech not contemplated in the intent. Clinton signed HR 1887 specifically stating that it was to be used against only those acts which were of "wanton cruelty to animals designed to appeal to a prurient interest in sex" and with which the Stevens case had absolutely nothing to do.)
Chief Justice John Roberts asked Mr. Katyal why animal rights groups that use images of cruelty to raise awareness and funds are not subject to prosecution.
"...Congress carved a broad exemption in Section 48 precisely to make sure that expressive messages aren't swept up," Mr. Katyal said.
But continuing along the same line, Justice Sotomayor asked about a documentary on dogfighting. Though its producer was not prosecuted, the film contained much more graphic images than Mr. Stevens', she said.
"Doesn't there have to be a judgment inherent in this statute?" she asked.
"Why not do a simpler thing? Rather than let the public guess as to what these words mean, ask Congress to write a statute that actually aims at those frightful things that it was trying to prohibit. Now that can be done. I don't know why they couldn't do it."
Here I wanted to be sure that the firm that took the Stevens case to the finish line was recognized.
Congress passed law in 1999 to outlaw dominatrix videos where women torture small animals with their bare feet or while wearing heels.
But the statute here has been applied to more than just crush videos. It was loosely written to bar the recording where "a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed."
"Or killed!" Justice Antonin Scalia exclaimed, noting that humans kill animals for food all the time.
Patricia Millet from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, represented Robert Stevens, who sold dog fighting videos. She argued that the government is simply banning something it doesn't like. "If it's just that we don't like the content, outside obscenity, Congress doesn't get to ban it," she said.
Scalia asked whether the government's interpretation would outlaw the marketing of bullfighting videos.
Katyal replied that someone could market Spanish bullfighting videos because they are educational, and therefore exempt from the rule.
"Well, I guess a dogfight is educational, too," Scalia replied.
"It isn't illegal in Japan, and part of the video here were dog fights in Japan, legal where it occurred, no different from bull fighting," Ginsburg noted.
When it was Millett's turn to argue in defense of the dog fighting videos, Scalia showed his apparent favor for her side of the case.
"I really think you should focus, not on the educational value to make people hate bull fighting, but on quite the opposite, it seems to me," Scalia said. "On the right under the First Amendment of people who like bull fighting, who like dog fighting, who like cock fighting, to present their side of the debate."
That way it would fall under the political exception, he explained.