U.S. Gets 21-Day Extension to Respond to FSC’s 2257 Petition to Rehear Appeal

Jul 10, 2015 11:04 AM PST

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court judge today granted a 21-day extension for the U.S. Attorney General’s office to respond to the Free Speech Coalition’s motion to rehear its challenge over the legality of 18 U.S.C. § 2257.

A three-judge 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in May left intact the core of the recordkeeping regulation’s tenets for producers of sexually explicit content with the exception of warrantless inspections of records. The panel said that 2257, for the most part, was "narrowly tailored" and, therefore, constitutional.

Attorneys J. Michael Murray and Lorraine Baumgardner, both representing the FSC, asked for a rehearing en banc, or before the entire bench rather than by panel, in June.

Today, 3rd Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith approved the government’s request to delay a response to the petition for a rehearing. The FSC was unopposed to the request.

In late June, the FSC filed a petition to rehear its appeal, holding that two very recent U.S. Supreme Court cases decided — Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, Ariz., and City of Los Angeles vs. Patel — could have influence on its appeal.

In Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, Ariz., the high court ruled in that the decision that the provisions of a municipality’s sign code that impose more stringent restrictions on signs directing the public to the meeting of a nonprofit group than on signs conveying other messages are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny.

In City of Los Angeles vs. Patel, the justices ruled that a Los Angeles municipal code that requires hotel operators to record and keep specific information about their guests on the premises for a 90-day period and to make those records available to "any officer of the Los Angeles Police Department for inspection" on demand, is facially unconstitutional because it fails to provide the operators with an opportunity for pre-compliance review.

Murray, in the May request to rehear the case en banc, claimed that the 3rd Circuit panel’s decision upholding 2257, as content-neutral regulations of expression, conflicts with the new high court rulings.

Murray told XBIZ that the FSC was pleased with the 3rd Circuit’s decision in May to strike down the federal regulation authorizing 2257 inspections as unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

"That was an important victory striking a substantial blow to the 2257 scheme," he said. "At the same time we were disappointed with the court’s rejection of our First Amendment challenges to 2257 and thus we filed a petition for rehearing.

"The court initially gave the government until July 15 to file a response to our petition, but the government sought, and was granted, an extension until Aug. 5. We will continue to vigorously pursue our constitutional challenges to this burdensome statutory scheme."

Brooks ordered the government’s response to be limited to rebut the FSC’s focus on the recently decided cases by the Supreme Court.

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