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Supreme Court hears child pornography, sentencing cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Tuesday in United States v. Williams [LII case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-694, to determine whether part of the federal anti-child abuse PROTECT Act of 2003 [PDF text] is unconstitutional for criminalizing speech protected by the First Amendment. Critics have challenged the law for creating criminal penalties for the advertisement or promotion of material that implies the existence of child pornography - even if there is no actual pornography. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held [opinion, PDF] in April 2006 that "non-commercial, non-inciteful promotion of illegal child pornography, even if repugnant, is protected speech under the First Amendment." Solicitor General Paul Clement [official profile] defended the government's position before the Court and addressed concerns about limits on artistic expression, saying that mainstream movies depicting or referencing underage sex will not be affected by the law. AP has more.

The Court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Tuesday in Logan v. United States [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs ], 06-6911, in which it will consider when repeat criminals can be treated as career criminals for sentencing purposes, when the previous convictions are for misdemeanor crimes. Under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) [44 USC 924 text], defendants may be subjected to longer sentences if the defendant has three prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses. Defendant James Logan argued that his three previous misdemeanor battery convictions should not count toward ACCA sentencing because he did not lose his civil rights. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] held that the ACCA did apply.

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