The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund welcomes the November 16 ruling of U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele of the federal court in Little Rock, Arkansas who ruled that Act 858, amending the Arkansas Code, is unconstitutional. The amendment criminalized the display of books which are inappropriate to younger minors but constitutionally protected as to older minors and adults.
The challenge to the law, resulting from its amendment in 2003, was brought by a broad-based coalition of plaintiffs including That Bookstore In Blytheville, along with trade associations representing bookstores, librarians, book publishers, comic book publishers and retailers and distributors in Arkansas, as well as the ACLU of Arkansas.
The CBLDF and co-plaintiffs believed that the law unconstitutionally required retailers and libraries to prevent all minors from accessing constitutionally protected materials that may be considered inappropriate for younger minors. By requiring plaintiffs physically to segregate such material, the statute unconstitutionally restricted adults and minors from browsing materials protected by the First Amendment.
Judge Eisele had directed certified questions as to the meaning of the amended statute to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Based on the response from the Supreme Court, the judge found the display provisions “facially unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution because such provisions are overbroad and impose unconstitutional prior restraint on the availability and display of constitutionally protected, non-obscene materials to both adults and older minors.”
CBLDF Director Charles Brownstein says, “This is a victory for readers and retailers in Arkansas whose First Amendment rights have been preserved by this well-considered decision.”