SCOTUS strikes down ban on animal cruelty videos
And it wasn’t even close – 8-1. The court finding is based in the First Amendment right of free speech.
So – who do you suppose the lone dissenter was? I would almost bet you won’t guess correctly. I didn’t.
Anyway, the court found that the law was overly broad and while aimed at outlawing some dispicable videos known as “crush videos” (as an aside, when you read what a crush video is, you will indeed understand that there are some very sick people in this world). However, the law could also be used to prosecute hunting videos as well.
The government had argued that “certain categories of speech deserve constitutional protection depends on balancing the value of the speech against its societal costs”.
Writing for the majority Chief Justice John Roberts explains why the court rejected that argument:
“The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits,” Roberts wrote. “The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.”
Or said another way, the court refused to allow the government to institute arbitrary or “ad hoc” standards that “balance relative social costs and benefits”. One can, or should be able to see the very slippery slope to where that sort of reasoning leads – and it certainly could lead to serious restrictions of the right to free speech depending on how government deicides to “balance” those costs and benefits in the future. Remember – the First Amendment is a restriction on government, not the people. And the court enforced that.
The lone dissenter? Sam Alito who wrote:
“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it most certainly does not protect violent criminal conduct, even if engaged in for expressive purposes.”
The prosecute the criminal for the crime he has filmed for you. I can think of nothing that stops the law from doing that. And that has nothing to do with restricting the First Amendment.