Vice Squad
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
 
Victory for Porn, and Oh Yeah, the First Amendment


On January 20th, a United States District Court judge dismissed obscenity charges against the owners of "Extreme Associates", a pornography production company based in Los Angeles. ABC news provides a nice summary of the case and its outcome. The case was purposefully pursued in Western Pennsylvania, as opposed to Southern California, because prosecutors believed that the community standards in Pennsylvania would not permit distribution of the materials produced by Extreme Associates. An undercover postal inspector ordered pornographic materials from Extreme Associates and had them shipped to him in Pennsylvania to obtain jurisdiction. During oral arguments, the defendants' attorney noted that the world has changed quite a bit since the "community standard" test was first established, in large part because of the Internet.

The judge in the case relied heavily on the 2003 Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional. The judge stated that in light of Lawrence, "the government can no longer rely on the advancement of a moral code, i.e., preventing consenting adults from entertaining lewd and lascivious thoughts as a legitimate, let alone a compelling, state interest."

The judge deferred from previous obscenity cases which have held that it is permissible for one to view pornography in the home, but it is impermissible to produce the otherwise legal materials. The judge believed that there is an inherent contradiction between the idea that Americans can possess certain materials, but cannot legally distribute them. You can view the dismissal document here, but be forewarned that, although it is just a PDF-file of the court document, it was uploaded by an adult video website.

Apparently, the stuff produced by Extreme Associates is offensive to a lot of people. The movies include simulated rapes and killings, with a great deal of violence directed at women. Even Paul Fishbein, president of Adult Video News, the trade journal of the pornographic film industry, said Extreme Associates produced "horrible, unwatchable, disgusting, aberrant movies." However, Fishbein went on to note that the First Amendment must remain pure.

Bush's nominee for Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, told the Senate that if confirmed as attorney general, he intends "to make the investigation and prosecution of obscenity one of my highest criminal enforcement priorities." Perhaps the decision in the Extreme Associates case will lead him to refocus his efforts on, I don't know, say...catching murderers?

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