Wednesday, February 02, 2005

LEGALIZED OBSCENITY. Brought to you by Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and William Rehnquist! I'm a bit slow getting to this, but I haven't seen a lot of coverage, either.

About a year and a half ago I wrote about the case of Extreme Associates, purveyors of such fine entertainment as Ass Clowns 3. The makers of this harder-than-hardcore pornography, Robert Zicari and Janet Romano, were being prosecuted by Attorney General John Ashcroft under federal obscenity statutes. Zicari and Romano were doing business in California; the case was brought in conservative Western Pennsylvania.

Well, guess what? Extreme Associates won. On January 20, US District Court judge Gary Lancaster dismissed the case against Zicari and Romano, and possibly paved the way for the long-overdue death of anti-obscenity laws. And if Lancaster is upheld, you can send your thank-you cards to Supreme Court justices Scalia, Rehnquist, and Thomas.

You may recall that, a few years ago, the three conservatives dissented in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned anti-sodomy laws. Scalia - who actually wrote the dissent - fumed that the majority decision could pave the way for obscenity laws to be overturned as well. It turns out that Lancaster read Scalia's dissent and agreed. Wrote Lancaster:

In a dissenting opinion joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia opined that the holding in Lawrence calls into question the constitutionality of the nation's obscenity laws, among many other laws based on the state's desire to establish a "moral code" of conduct.... It is reasonable to assume that these three members of the Court came to this conclusion only after reflection and that the opinion was not merely a result of over-reactive hyperbole by those on the losing side of the argument.

You've got to love the way that Lancaster is willing to twist the logical knife into the conservative Supremes.

Lancaster's opinion is a great victory for free speech and privacy. It's also a challenge aimed directly at the right-wing agenda being pursued by George W. Bush's Justice Department.

PAINFUL TO READ. Take a look at the side-by-side comparisons posted by Bruce Allen of a column by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette's Ken Powers and an earlier piece by Sports Illustrated's Peter King. Powers's career is obviously hanging by a thread at this point. What was he thinking? (Via Romenesko.)

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