Answering Your Questions About U.S. v. StevensPosted by April Nockleby, ALDF's Online Content Manager on October 1st, 2009
On October 6, the United States Supreme Court will directly address the issue of animal cruelty for the first time in more than fifteen years. Last week, ALDF invited our supporters to send in questions about United States v. Stevens, a case involving the sale of dogfighting videos.
The question before the Court in Stevens is whether 18 U.S.C. § 48 (“Section 48”), a federal law that criminalizes the sale of depictions of animal cruelty, violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The defendant in the case is Robert Stevens, who was convicted in January 2005 of violating Section 48 by selling three videos depicting dogfights and hog-dogging, including graphic depictions of a pit bull mutilating the lower jaw of a live pig. Not only did Stevens sell the videos, he also narrated them, produced them, and advertised them in dogfighting magazines. Stevens appealed his conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In a 10-3 decision, the Third Circuit held that Section 48 violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The court declined the government’s request to establish a new class of speech—depictions of animal cruelty—that is “unprotected” by the First Amendment. To date, there are only a handful of “unprotected” types of speech: slander/libel, incitement, obscenity, fighting words, true threats, and child pornography.
The complexities of this important case are clarified in this Q & A session with ALDF Attorney Matthew Liebman. Read it here.
Have additional questions? Post them in the comments section below.