cr> UPDATE: ACLU v. Reno


Craig A. Johnson


ACLU: "We Succeeded in Presenting Strong Evidence"

Friday, March 22, 1996

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- In the first two days of trial in the battle for
free speech in cyberspace, a three-judge panel heard testimony from
plaintiffs who fear censorship under the new telecommunications law
and took a first-ever live courtroom tour of the Internet.

The consolidated cases of ACLU v. Reno and American Library
Association et al v. U.S. Department of Justice challenge provisions
of the law that criminalize making available to minors "indecent" or
"patently offensive" speech.

"We succeeded in presenting strong evidence on all the major reasons
why this law is unconstitutional," said Christopher Hansen, lead
counsel for the ACLU. The censorship law,  he said, "is technically
and economically infeasible to enforce, it blocks speech that has
value to a great many people, and it ignores effective alternatives
available both to protect children and to protect free speech." 

Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice cross-examined witnesses
whose direct testimony was submitted by affidavit, according to
procedures laid out by the judges.  The judges also questioned the
witnesses from the bench, and ACLU and ALA coalition lawyers were
given an opportunity to redirect, i.e., question their clients in
response to the government's cross-examination.

ACLU client Patricia Nell Warren was asked by Judge Stewart Dalzell
how she would be affected by a ruling that the Internet censorship
law was constitutional.  Ms. Warren, a best-selling author and
publisher who maintains a website featuring samples of classic gay
literature, said she feared censorship. 

"What I'm concerned about is that certain people in this country
will perceive the entire area of gay literature to be indecent or
patently offensive," she told the judges.  Ms. Warren also publishes
YouthArts, a free online "e-zine" by and for teenagers which includes
many works by gay and lesbian teens.

Another ACLU client, Kiyoshi Kuromiya, creator of the Critical Path
AIDS Project website, testified that his site provides "lifesaving"
information on safer sex practices aimed at reaching teens around the
world.  Two-thirds of American high school students are sexually
active, he said, and many seek out the detailed information his
website provides on an anonymous basis.  

Government lawyers declined to cross-examine Patricia Nell Warren or
Kiyoshi Kuromiya.  

Ann Duvall, president of SurfWatch, was the only witness to offer
direct testimony in court to the judges, through a first-ever
Internet hook-up that allowed her to "surf" the World Wide Web and
give a demonstration of how her company's software blocks access to
sites deemed unsuitable for children.

On Friday morning, judges heard from Dr. Donna Hoffman, an expert
witness on marketing in cyberspace.  Dr. Hoffman said that she feared
the censorship law would destroy the democratic nature of the
Internet.  Many "mom & pop" websites might be forced close up shop on
the Web because of uncertainty about criminal and financial penalties
for so-called indecency under the law, she told the judges, while
large corporations with vast legal resources could afford to risk

Witnesses for the ACLU and ALA coalitions appeared in the following order:

Thursday, March 21

1. Scott O. Bradner, senior technical consultant, Information Technology
Services, Harvard University (ALA).

2.  Ann W. Duvall, president, SurfWatch Inc.  (ALA)

3.  Patricia Nell Warren, author and publisher, WildCat Press (ACLU)

4.  Kiyoshi Kuromiya, director, Critical Path AIDS Project (ACLU)

5.  Reverend William R. Stayton, psychologist and Baptist minister

Friday, March 22

1.  Donna Hoffman, associate professor of management, Owen Graduate
School of Management at Vanderbilt University (ACLU)

2.  Robert B. Cronenberger, director, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (ALA)

3. Scott O. Bradner (returned for redirect by ALA lawyer)

Coalition lawyers are scheduled to present their final day of
testimony on Monday, April 1.  The government is scheduled to present
its witnesses for cross-examination on April 12 and 15, 1996
(rescheduled from April 11 and 12).  A fourth day of testimony has
been set for April 26, to allow the ACLU and ALA lawyers to present
witnesses rebutting the government's testimony.

Following these six days of trial, the judges will issue a ruling. 
Under expedited provisions,   any appeal on rulings regarding the new
censorship law will be made directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers for the ACLU appearing before the court were Christoper
Hansen, lead counsel, Marjorie Heins, Ann Beeson, and Stefan Presser,
legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. 

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