Virginia v. American Booksellers Association, Inc.

PETITIONER: Virginia
RESPONDENT: American Booksellers Association, Inc.
LOCATION: New York City Council

DOCKET NO.: 86-1034
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1987-1988)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 484 US 383 (1988)
ARGUED: Nov 04, 1987
DECIDED: Jan 25, 1988

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Virginia v. American Booksellers Association, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 04, 1987 in Virginia v. American Booksellers Association, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 25, 1988 in Virginia v. American Booksellers Association, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in Number 86-1034, Virginia versus American Booksellers Association will be announced by Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The United States District Court in Virginia and affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared unconstitutionally following Virginia statute.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly display for commercial purposes in a manner whereby juveniles may examine and peruse visual or written material that depicts sexually explicit nudity, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to juveniles."

The unique factual and procedural setting of this case leads us to conclude that an authoritative construction of this, this Virginia statute by the Virginia Supreme Court, would substantially aid our review of this constitutional holding and might well determine the case entirely.

Accordingly, we have concluded that we should not attempt to review the holding at this time but should certify first two questions to the Virginia Supreme Court.

That court has a certification procedure embodied in its Rule 5:42 that authorizes our submission.

And pursuant to the rule, we respectfully certify to the Virginia Supreme Court the following questions.

First, does the phrase, "harmful to juveniles" is used and the Virginia Code properly construed encompass any of the books introduced as plaintiffs' exhibits below and what general standard should be used to determine the statute's reach in light of juveniles' differing ages and levels of maturity.

And a second question, what meaning is to be given to the provision of the Virginia Code making it unlawful and, “to knowingly display for commercial purposes in a manner whereby juveniles may examine or peruse certain materials?”

Specifically, is the provision complied with by a plaintiff bookseller who has a policy of not permitting juveniles to examine and peruse materials covered by the statute and who prohibits such conduct when observed, but otherwise, takes no action regarding the display of restricted materials?

If not, would the statute be complied with if the store's policy were announced or otherwise manifested to the public?

Justice Stevens has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.