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Southeast Booksellers Ass'n v. McMaster

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Citation Edit

Southeast Booksellers Ass'n v. McMaster, 371 F.Supp.2d 773 (D.S.C. 2005) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

In July 2001, former South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed an amendment to a statute that prohibited the dissemination of harmful sexual material to minors via the Internet. The amendment defined “material” to include obscenedigital electronic files.” Southeast Booksellers, along with organizations that represent artists, writers and others who use the Internet to engage in expression, sued to permanently enjoin enforcement of the statute.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. Southeast Booksellers argued that the statute contained content-based restrictions that violate the First Amendment, specifically alleging that the statute is overbroad because it prevents adults from viewing and sending constitutionally-protected images over the Internet. Further, Southeast Booksellers allege that the statute violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause because the statute’s enforcement methods too greatly burden interstate commerce.

Ruling on both summary judgment motions, Judge Patrick Duffy agreed with Southeast Booksellers. The judge found that the statute’s age verification enforcement method violates the First Amendment because it is not the least restrictive means of achieving the statute’s compelling interest of preventing obscene material from reaching minors. He also agreed with Southeast Booksellers’ Commerce Clause claim. Judge Duffy found the statute “invalid because it places an undue burden on interstate commerce by regulating commerce occurring wholly outside of South Carolina.”

As a result, Judge Duffy granted Southeast Booksellers’ motion for summary judgment and denied South Carolina’s motion for summary judgment.

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