SCOTUS Strikes Down Animal Cruelty Law
Posted on Apr 20, 2010
Pointing to the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday nixed a federal law from 1999 that made the creation, possession or sale of depictions of animal cruelty illegal, despite the Obama administration’s request that the top court consider the animal rights angle in its decision. Chief Justice John Roberts pointed to the example of possession or distribution of hunting images in Washington, D.C., where hunting is illegal, in his majority opinion explaining the ruling. —KA
The Christian Science Monitor:
Roberts said the statute created a criminal prohibition of “alarming breadth.”
“A depiction of entirely lawful conduct runs afoul of the ban if that depiction later finds its way into another state where the same conduct is unlawful,” he said.
He noted that since hunting is illegal in Washington, D.C., the law would extend to “any magazine or video depicting lawful hunting, so long as that depiction is sold within the nation’s capital.”
Roberts rejected pledges by the government that federal prosecutors would only enforce the statute against acts of what it viewed as “extreme cruelty.”
“The First Amendment protects against the government; it does not leave us at the mercy of noblesse oblige,” Roberts wrote. “We would not uphold an unconstitutional statute merely because the government promised to use it reasonably.”
Flickr / blhphotography
Dogfighting, and the distribution of depictions thereof, was one of the issues involved in the animal cruelty ruling on Tuesday.