Declan McCullagh on Wed, 21 Aug 96 05:27 METDST

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nettime: Justice Department stalls for time in CDA lawsuit, from HotWired

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 1996 20:12:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: Declan McCullagh <>
Subject: Justice Department stalls for time in CDA lawsuit, from HotWired

[Read the complete column at the URL below... -Declan]

HotWired, The Netizen
21 August 1996

DOJ Dodge

by Declan McCullagh (
Washington, DC, 20 August
   The US Department of Justice is stalling for time.

   The Supreme Court yesterday granted the government an extra month to
   submit the next phase of its Communications Decency Act appeal,
   allowing the DOJ a few more weeks to coordinate the original ACLU
   lawsuit with a lesser-known suit filed by Joe Shea, editor of the
   American Reporter.

   But in truth, the DOJ shouldn't need any more time to file this
   paperwork. The "jurisdictional statement" the department's been
   working on for seven weeks - and now has until 29 September to submit
   - must argue only that there's a substantial constitutional issue at
   stake in the CDA lawsuit, something transcendently obvious to anyone
   who hasn't been napping through the 14 months since Time magazine's
   cyberporn cover hit the newsstands.

   While this is likely just normal legal skirmishing in a battle where
   the DOJ attorneys have few useful weapons and already have suffered
   one crushing defeat, the government's five-page application for an
   extension of time hints at why a delay would be to their advantage.

   In other words, the CDA might be unconstitutional now, but
   _constitutional_ some months from now - depending on how labelling and
   blocking technologies such as PICS and SurfWatch evolve. Keeping kids
   out might have been a royal pain when the judges heard the case in
   March 1996, but by March 1997 it might amount to no more than the
   minor irritation of a constitutional hangnail.
   David Sobel, a lawyer for the Electronic Privacy Information Center
   and co-counsel on this case, said: "They could make the argument in
   the Supreme Court that the court in Philadelphia hasn't really
   completed its work on the case, and all that is entered is a
   preliminary injunction. They could argue that this case should go back
   to Philadelphia for further proceedings, since they're now prepared to
   answer the court's questions about what kind of technology may be
   coming down the pike."
   Whatever the reason for the DOJ's delay - summer bureaucratic
   slothfulness or malicious conniving - one thing is certain: we have
   the rest of the year to enjoy the government's lawyer tricks.

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