U.S. Judge Won't Dismiss 2257 Suit, Sides With FSC

PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge has denied the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss 4th Amendment complaints in Free Speech Coalition vs. Eric Holder, which involves federal record-keeping law 18 U.S.C. § 2257.

At a pretrial hearing held at the James A. Byrne Federal Courthouse in Philadelphia, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson listened to arguments from attorney J. Michael Murray, representing the Free Speech Coalition and other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and attorney Kathryn Wyer, who represents the Justice Department under President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder).

Wyer argued that the plaintiffs’ 4th Amendment complaints were “defective,” noting that 2257 searches aren’t being aggressively conducted presently.

But Murray countered that 2257 laws remain in effect regardless of the amount of government searches — or lack thereof — presently taking place.

Baylson essentially agreed with Murray’s arguments, requesting a phone consultation with Murray and Wyer on Dec. 13 and possibly another one on Dec. 20 if needed. 

Baylson, calling for “limited discovery,” told Murray and Wyer that if the case does go to trial, he is hoping the trial will begin in mid-June.

Under 2257 regulations (part of the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988), producers of sexually explicit material are required to obtain proof that any models they use are legal adults and maintain careful records of that proof.

Adult entertainment companies are subject to 2257-related inspections by law enforcement—and violations of 2257 can result in criminal prosecution.

Although the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act was enacted in November 1988 when President Ronald Reagan was still in office, 2257 inspections of adult companies became especially aggressive under the George W. Bush Administration.

But taking forceful action against the adult entertainment industry has not been a high priority for the Obama Administration.

Special Agent Alan S. Nanavaty, who heads the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit, has sworn that the Justice Department’s 2257 inspection program was terminated on Oct. 24, 2007.

Nanavaty has said that since then, the FBI has received no funding for new 2257 inspections.

But at today's pretrial hearing in Philadelphia, Murray, counsel with the Cleveland-based firm of Berkman, Gordon, Murray & Devan, asserted that the lack of 2257 inspections under Holder does not invalidate the 1st Amendment or 4th Amendment concerns that the FSC has about 2257.

“The statute hasn’t changed,” Murray told the court. “The statute still requires that records must be kept.”

Murray stressed that regardless of Holder’s position on 2257, a future attorney general might favor a return to aggressive257 inspections — and for that reason, the FSC’s lawsuit against the Justice Department needs to go forward.

In Free Speech Coalition vs. Eric Holder (which was filed in 2009 after Obama took office), the FSC has asserted said 2257 searches violate the 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizures.