Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition Case Brief

Facts of the Case

“A provision of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 (CPPA) () prohibited the possession or distribution of “child pornography,” which was defined in another CPPA provision () as including any visual depiction that “is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” Thus, 2256(8)(B) banned a range of sexually explicit images, sometimes called “virtual child pornography,” that appeared to depict minors but were produced by means other than using real children, as, for example, computer-generated images and images of adults who looked like minors. Various plaintiffs–including a trade association for the adult-entertainment industry, the publisher of a book advocating the nudist lifestyle, a painter of nudes, and a photographer specializing in erotic images–brought a suit for declaratory and injunctive relief in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the United States Attorney General and the United States Department of Justice. The plaintiffs alleged, among other matters, that (1) 2256(8)(B) and 2256(8)(D) chilled the plaintiffs from producing works protected by the, and (2) these provisions were thus overbroad and violative of the. The District Court, determining that the provisions were constitutional, granted the government’s motion for summary judgment (“


Does a suspect’s consent to a search of his vehicle extend to closed containers found inside?


“Yes. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court held that the two prohibitions described above are overbroad and unconstitutional. The Court found the CPPA to be inconsistent with Miller insofar as the CPPA cannot be read to prohibit obscenity, because it lacks the required link between its prohibitions and the affront to community standards prohibited by the obscenity definition. Moreover, the Court found the CPPA to have no support in Ferber since the CPPA prohibits speech that records no crime and creates no victims by its production. Provisions of the CPPA cover “materials beyond the categories recognized in Ferber and Miller, and the reasons the Government offers in support of limiting the freedom of speech have no justification in our precedents or in the law of the First Amendment” and abridge “the freedom to engage in a substantial amount of lawful speech,” wrote Justice Kennedy.”

Case Information

Citation: 535 US 234 (2002)
Argued: Oct 30, 2001
Decided: Apr 16, 2002
Case Brief: 2002