Supreme Court Strikes Down Law on Animal Cruelty Videos

BY Hari Sreenivasan  April 20, 2010 at 10:41 AM EDT

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a 1999 federal law banning videos of animal cruelty violates the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

The court voted 8-1 to overturn the law. Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal explained the argument portion of the case on the NewsHour in October. The legal challenge centered around the sale of dog fighting videos and the 1999 law enacted to limit the sale of so-called “crush videos,” which depict women stepping on small animals in high heels.

SCOTUSblog breaks down the decision here:

While the court conceded that Congress had passed the law to try to stop interstate trafficking in so-called “crush videos,” showing the actual killing of cats, dogs and other small animals by stomping or other intensely cruel methods, the resulting law itself reached far more than that kind of portrayal. Limiting the law’s reach to those depictions, the opinion said, would require the court to give “an unrealistically broad reading” to the exceptions Congress wrote into the law.

The ruling also threw out the conviction of Robert Stevens of Virginia, who was sentenced to three years in prison for making and distributing videos of dog fighting under the law.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the law banning the deceptions was too broad. Associate Justice Samuel Alito dissented, arguing that banning the sale of crush videos was necessary to stop people from abusing the animals.

You can read the full decision here.