Supreme Court Calls Animal Cruelty Law Too Broad In overturning the conviction of a man who compiled and distributed videos of dogfights, the justices said the law violates the First Amendment right of free speech. The government's assertion that a law can ban any category of speech that Congress deems not "worthy" of constitutional protection, the court said, is "startling and dangerous."
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Supreme Court Calls Animal Cruelty Law Too Broad

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Supreme Court Calls Animal Cruelty Law Too Broad

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Supreme Court Calls Animal Cruelty Law Too Broad

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

NINA TOTENBERG: Stevens sold the films commercially. His critics said he was exploiting dogfighting for profit. He denies that, saying his videos are part of his educational work on the breed.

ROBERT STEVENS: What you actually see is two dogs wrestling around because I edited out all that stuff. My genre, what I'm saying, was not to sensationalize and show bloody, gory stuff.

TOTENBERG: Whether Congress could in the future write a statute that would be sufficiently targeted at crush videos is a question the court declined to answer, but Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, is urging Congress to try.

WAYNE PACELLE: We really do believe that Congress can find a way to pass a law that forbids illegal acts of animal cruelty that will pass constitutional muster.

TOTENBERG: But hunting and fishing enthusiasts, like Laurie Lee Dovey, executive director of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, are doubtful.

LAURIE LEE DOVEY: I don't believe there can be, and I think that we must, in America, rely on our First Amendment rights to speak freely and to discuss things that are not comfortable to discuss. That's what makes us America.

TOTENBERG: The lone dissenter in today's ruling was Justice Samuel Alito, who charged that the practical effect of the court's ruling would be to legalize a form of depraved entertainment.

SIEGEL: first the Obama administration's Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a top contender for the U.S. Supreme Court, whose brief on behalf of the administration was thoroughly repudiated in the strongest terms, or. as Gene Schaerr, who filed a brief on the other side for the libertarian CATO Institute, put it: If Kagan supervised the brief she signed...

GENE SCHAERR: I would agree that it does seem to raise questions about her judgment.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

SIEGEL: And we should note that NPR joined other news organizations in filing a brief in this case. The brief argued that the federal law banning the so-called crush videos and images was unconstitutional.

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