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ACLU v. Reno, Round II Update

First Major Ruling Expected by February 1

January 27, 1999

PHILADELPHIA -- With closing arguments concluded late Tuesday, Judge Lowell A. Reed, Jr. called lawyers for the government and the American Civil Liberties Union back into court today for a final "question-and-answer" session regarding the constitutionality of a new federal Internet censorship law.

Judge Reed is expected to rule on whether to block the law by Monday, February 1, when a temporary restraining order he imposed against the law in November is scheduled to expire.

The new law makes it a federal crime for commercial websites to communicate material considered "harmful to minors." Penalties include fines of up to $150,000 for each day of violation, and up to six months in prison if convicted of a crime.

At the six-day hearing, the ACLU presented testimony from website operators who provide free information for artists, lesbian and gay men, and the disabled, who all fear that a new federal law will force them to shut down their websites.

If the court issues a preliminary injunction, Internet speakers will remain safe from prosecution and fines and a full trial will be scheduled. The government will then have to decide whether it wants to pursue an appeal.


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