ACLU Of Utah Seeks To Enjoin Statute Regulating Internet Speech
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY— Today, the ACLU of Utah as a plaintiff along with a coalition of booksellers, media companies, and artists, will argue a set of critical motions in the case of Florence v. Shurtleff, No. 05-CV-485 (United States District Court, District of Utah). In its motion, the ACLU of Utah seeks a ruling from the federal district court that a Utah statute restricting speech on the Internet is unconstitutional. Utah’s law seeks to regulate all Internet speech that may be considered “harmful to minors.” The law goes beyond constitutional limits, however, because it would result in restrictions on visual art, photography, graphic novels, and information about sexual health and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. For their part, the Utah Attorney General and the County Attorneys defending the law have made motions seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, or for a judgment that the law is constitutional. They contend that certain changes to the law since 2005 have solved the statute’s constitutional problems and that, in any event, plaintiffs have no standing to sue anymore.
Since August 2006, a preliminary injunction agreed to by both sides has blocked the enforcement of the challenged sections of the statute. At today’s hearing, the ACLU of Utah will request that this injunction be made permanent.
The Plaintiffs will be represented at the hearing by Michael Bamberger and Richard Zuckerman, partners of SNR Denton US LLP. "We do not agree with the defendants that the changes in the law after 2005 save this statute,” said Mr. Zuckerman. “The defendants are essentially asking us to trust them not to prosecute people who post words and images on websites, because their current view is that the law does not apply to Internet speech. Of course, their opinion could change at any time in the future, and such assurances do not make the statute constitutional,” he continued. “Utah may properly restrict one-to-one ‘harmful to minors’ communications made to a specific minor, but this statute goes far beyond that,” he concluded.
“This law puts a chill on the speech of individuals and organizations like the ACLU of Utah in their efforts to educate the public about their rights,” said John Mejia, Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah. “While the state has a valid interest in seeking to protect minors, this statute sweeps too far in trying to accomplish that goal.”
For more about the lawsuit or to download copies of the court documents, including the amended complaint, go to http://www.acluutah.org/Florence-v-Shurtleff.html