U.S. v. Stevens
Elena Kagan, Solicitor General, Counsel of Record; Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General; Michael R. Dreeben, Deputy Solicitor General; Nicole A. Saharsky, Assistant to the Solicitor, General; Vicki S. Marani, Attorney, Department of Justice.
Lisa B. Freeland, Federal Public Defender, Western District of, Pennsylvania, Counsel of Record; Michael J. Novara, First Assistant Federal Public Defender; Karen Sirianni Gerlach, Assistant Federal Public Defender.
3rd Party Amicus or Intervening Party:
International Society for Animal Rights (Henry Mark Holzer, Counsel of Record) (Lance J. Gotko, Andrew S. Pak - Counsel for Amicus Curiae - Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP); Group of American Law Professors (Megan A. Senatori, Counsel of Record (DeWitt, Ross, & Stevens, SC); Pamela D. Frasch (Center for Animal Law Studies)
Cruelty, depictions of
Case File #:
2009 WL 1034613; 533 F.3d 218 (C.A.3 (Pa.),2008)
Year Case Filed:
Documents filed in the case are presented in chronological order beginning with the opinion of the Third Circuit.
Third Circuit Court of Appeals:
Summary of Third Circuit's opinion (533 F.3d 218 (C.A.3 (Pa.),2008)
The Third Circuit held that 18 U.S.C. § 48, the federal law that criminalizes depictions of animal cruelty, is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The defendant in this case was convicted after investigators arranged to buy three dogfighting videos from defendant in sting operation. Because the statute addresses a content-based regulation on speech, the court considered whether the statute survived a strict scrutiny test. The majority was unwilling to extend the rationale of Ferber outside of child pornography without direction from the Supreme Court. The majority found that the conduct at issue in § 48 does not give rise to a sufficient compelling interest. Relying on the Supreme Court case concerning religious animal sacrifice (Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye) together with the fact that the Court has not expanded the unprotected speech categories in a generation, the court felt that a lower federal court should not extend those categories of unprotected speech. The court also stated that a compelling interest must relate to the well-being of humans, not animals. Further, the court found that in order to serve the purported compelling government interest of preventing animal cruelty, the regulation of these depictions must somehow aid in the prevention of cruelty to animals. The court found that the desensitization of individuals to act of cruelty does not rise to the level of supporting this compelling interest. Thus, said the court, § 48 is not narrowly tailored using the least restrictive means. The dissent found that the speech at issue in this case "possesses the essential attributes of unprotected speech identified generally in Chaplinsky and of child pornography as discussed in Ferber." The Government has a compelling interest in eradicating animal cruelty; the depictions of animal cruelty are intrinsically related to the underlying animal cruelty. Moreover, the dissent found the market for videos of animal cruelty "incentivizes the commission of acts of animal cruelty, and such depictions are of de minimis value." The dissent was careful to point out that this statute does not broadly ban all depictions of criminal activity, but rather "merely one prohibiting depictions of a narrow subclass of depraved acts committed against an uniquely vulnerable and helpless class of victims."
Petition for Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court:
Certiorari was granted in 2009 by --- S.Ct. ----, 2009 WL 1034613 (U.S. Apr 20, 2009)
Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court (12/15/2008)
Brief in Opposition (03/20/2009)
[Proposed] Brief Amicus Curiae of The Humane Society of the United States in Support of Appellee United States of America (on appeal to the Third Circuit from the District Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania) (08/22/2007) (.pdf file - 1.54 MB)
Briefs on Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court:
Brief for the United States (06/2009) (.pdf file - 304.75 KB)
Joint Appendix (for Petitioner and Respondent) (.pdf file - 288.44 KB)
Amicus Briefs On Writ Of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court:
Brief of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner (06/15/2009) (.pdf file - 239.28 KB)
Brief for a Group of American Law Professors as Amicus Curiae in Support of Neither Party (06/12/2009) (.pdf file - 220.28 KB)
Brief of Amicus Curiae of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Support of Petitioner (06/15/2009) (.pdf file - 251.70 KB)
Brief of Amicus Curiae of Animal Legal Defense Fund in Support of Petitioner (06/15/2009) (.pdf file - 259.54 KB)
Brief of Amicus Curiae of the Humane Society of the United States in Support of Petitioner (06/2009) (.pdf file - 193.32 KB)
Brief Amicus Curiae of International Society for Animal Rights in Support of Petitioner, United States of America (06/2009) (.pdf file - 166.09 KB)
Brief for Amicus Curiae Northwest Animal Rights Network in Support of Petitioner (06/2009) (.pdf file - 429.36 KB)
BRIEF OF FLORIDA, ALABAMA, ARKANSAS, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, HAWAII, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MARYLAND, MICHIGAN, MISSISSIPPI, MONTANA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW MEXICO, NORTH CAROLINA, OHIO, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, TEXAS, UTAH, VIRGINIA and WEST VIRGINIA, AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER (06/15/2009) (.pdf file - 247.66 KB)
BRIEF OF WASHINGTON LEGAL FOUNDATION AND ALLIED EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER (06/15/2009) (.pdf file - 145.63 KB)