As expected, the US Justice Department will ask the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court's ruling that the Communications Decency Act is unconstitutional. The Justice Department will file a notice of appeal to the US District Court in Philadelphia by July 2, the deadline for appealing the court's decision, according to Joe Krovisky, a Justice Department spokesman. It will then begin the lengthy process of a Supreme Court appeal, something that could take a year or more to resolve, according to a lead plaintiff in the case.
The CDA, part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 passed earlier this year, made it a felony to distribute indecent or offensive material to minors over the Internet or online services. But on June 12, a three-judge panel found that the CDA violated the constitutional right to free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union, lead plaintiff in the suit against the CDA, was not suprised by the Justice Department's decision to appeal, according to Anne Beeson, counsel to the CDA plaintiffs.
The 27-plaintiff coalition that opposed the CDA was made up of online services, computer vendors, publishers, and non-profit groups, including America Online Inc., Apple Computer Inc., CompuServe Inc., Microsoft Corp., Prodigy Inc., and Planned Parenthood.
"We obviously are pretty confident that the Supreme Court will simply affirm the really strong decision we got from the three-judge panel that the CDA is unconstitutional," Beeson said.
"It would be a great thing to have a Supreme Court opinion that the Internet cannot be regulated in this way," she added.
Following the notice of appeal, the Justice Department has 60 days to file a jurisdictional statement with the Supreme Court, explaining why the court can rule on the case, Krovisky said. After that, the plaintiffs have 30 days to comment on the jurisdictional statement, Beeson said. In early October, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to take the appeal, she said. If they do, arguments probably will not be heard until next winter, and the decision would likely not come down until late spring or summer, she said.
"It's kind of a long process," Beeson said.