cr> ACLU v. Reno Update


Craig A. Johnson

       ***Media Advisory***

        ACLU v Reno: Update

        Judge Grants Temporary Restraining Order on Indecency Provisions;
        ACLU Claims Partial Victory, But Warns Netizens to Beware

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   Contact: Phil Gutis/    (202) 675-2312
Thursday, February 15, 1996     Emily Whitfield/(212) 944-9800, x426

        Judge Agrees with ACLU that vague "indecency" provisions are
        Denies TRO on "patently offensive" material
        Denies TRO on Comstock law abortion provisions, asserting "no
irreparable harm"
        Three-judge panel convened for a full hearing on the case

1.      In the first ruling on the constitutionality of the Communications
Act, federal Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter today granted a temporary restraining
order enjoining the government from prosecuting so-called indecency on the

2.      The judge denied, with minimal comment, the motions for restraining
orders on prosecution for "patently offensive material" and on the
"Comstock Law" provisions of the act.   ACLU Attorney Chris Hansen, who is
leading the litigation, said that while the judge's ruling recognized the
need for robust speech on the Internet, the line was drawn in the wrong
place regarding the other censorship provisions of the law.  He added that
the government would now be free to prosecute on those grounds and that the
Internet community should beware.

3.      In denying the TRO on the Comstock provision of the law, Judge
stated that plaintiffs would not suffer any immediate harm.  The judge found
a basis for this assertion in  a letter to Vice President Gore in which
Attorney General Janet Reno conceded that the provision is unconstitutional.
 Laura Abel, an attorney for the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project and a
litigator on the case, noted that the letter is not a legally binding
document and the Justice Department remains free to prosecute at any future

4.      A three-judge panel was convened to hear the case, although a date
was not
yet set.  The judges on the panel are: Chief Judge Dolores K. Sloviter, Judge
Stuart Dalzell, and Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter.  Attorney Chris Hansen said
that he was hopeful that the court  would ultimately rule that the "patently
offensive" and Comstock law restrictions were equally damaging to First
Amendment rights.

        Complete information on the lawsuit, including Judge Buckwalter's
ruling, is
available via ACLU's new "Freedom Network" World Wide Web page,
 <<>>,  and via the ACLU's Constitution Hall forum on
America Online.


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