6th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules 2257 Unconstitutional
Connection Distributing Scores Landmark Victory
By David Sullivan
Posted: 10:04 AM PST Oct 23, 2007
CINCINNATI – The United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled today in the case of Connection Distributing Co. et. al. v. Keisler that the federal 2257 record-keeping statute is unconstitutional and overbroad.
“This is huge, huge news for the entire industry,” attorney J. Michael Murray told AVN. “It means that the statute has been declared unconstitutional in its entirety, at least in the 6th Circuit. This is the result we’ve all been aiming for; it’s a monumental victory. We’ve been fighting this battle for twelve long years, and this is the third time I argued the case on the 6th Circuit. Finally, we got a court to agree with us.”
A sister company to Cleveland-based video distributor GVA-TWN, the now-defunct Connection published approximately a dozen swinger’s magazines with personal ads containing sexually explicit photographs.
Connection originally filed suit against the government in September 1995, challenging the constitutionality of the 2257 statute on First Amendment grounds. Following a long, drawn-out series of appeals, today’s ruling firmly decides the case in Connection’s favor.
Three circuit judges weighed in on today’s panel ruling. In the 27-page opinion, the court stated: “We conclude that the statute is overbroad and therefore violates the First Amendment, and accordingly we reverse the district court’s judgment and remand with instructions to enter summary judgment for the plaintiffs.”
Murray praised Connection publisher and CEO of GVA-TWN Rondee Kamins for her persistence in pursuing the case. Kamins was one of three individual plaintiffs represented in the suit. The other two plaintiffs are anonymous individuals who sought to place explicit ads in Connection publications, arguing that the requirements of 2257 law compromised their privacy and freedom of expression.
“Rondee Kamins has fought this battle for twelve years, and she is a hero for what she has done in that long, long fight; she never gave up,” Murray said. “This was our third trip to the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and Rondee Kamins is owed an enormous debt of gratitude from the entire industry for this hard-fought battle she waged over these many years.”
“We’re ecstatic about the opinion,” Kamins told AVN. “I cannot say enough about Mike Murray and his staff. It was their terrific argument presented to the courts that made this whole thing possible. It’s been a long, tough road; we were in and out of court so many times. We were in federal court in Cleveland, we were in appeals court in Cincinnatti. I’m just thrilled.”
First Amendment attorney Reed Lee pointed out that very little of the court’s opinion focused specifically on the swinger’s magazines.
“For the first time time in at least a dozen years, we have judges that are digging deep to look at the fundamentals of section 2257,” Lee noted. “And as we have always thought, when they do so, they will find them wanting. When the analysis gets down to the level that these judges assess 2257 on, we’re beyond the particulars of swingers magazines vs. videos vs. internet – this is a very fundamental level, and it’s holding that the statute is flawed in the way it imposes burdens on everybody that has anything to do with this type of expression.”
Although the ruling applies only in the 6th Circuit (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee), Lee feels the case sets an important and gratifying precedent in the battle against 2257.
“The government says that its interest behind 2257 is in combating child porn,” Lee explained. “The problem is that virtually all of what 2257 applies to is not child porn. Each of the [three judges’] opinions today holds that 2257 is not narrowly tailored to an interest in suppressing child porn, because it applies to so much that is not child porn. This has been one of the fundamental objections to section 2257 all along.”