Extreme Associates Case Dismissed

As a lawyer, I feel obliged to note the courage of local federal judge Gary Lancaster, who recently dismissed federal obscenity indictments against two Californians doing business as "Extreme Associates." This was the first major federal obscenity prosecution in years, and it fell apart under the weight of the recent Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, that held that state anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional.

Privacy is as privacy does, as Forrest Gump might have said. Not only did Judge Lancaster toss out the indictments, he ruled that the entirety of the federal obscenity statute is unconstitutional in light of our Lawrence v. Texas-guaranteed rights of liberty, privacy, and free speech. He agreed with the defense that "the government can no longer justify legislation with enforcement of a 'moral code.'" Roughly speaking, if it's legal to own it, then it's legal to sell it.

Specifically, the court ruled, "the federal obscenity statutes violate the constitutional guarantees of personal liberty and privacy of consenting adults who wish to view defendants' films in private." Why? Because "public morality is not a legitimate state interest sufficient to justify infringing on adult, private, consensual, sexual conduct even if that conduct is deemed offensive to the general public's sense of morality."

It will be interesting to see what the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has to say about this. Meanwhile, ABC News has a long and interesting report here.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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