Garden District Book Shop v. Stewart

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, 2016


Most recent news

On April 29, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana granted the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction. It also denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. U.S. District Chief Judge Brian Jackson found that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their argument that the law is unconstitutional.

Previous case name: Garden District Book Shop v. Caldwell, Garden District Book Shop v. Cox

History

Louisiana enacts H.B. 153

On June 23, 2015, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed House Bill 153 [10] into law. The law went into effect on August 1, 2015. It requires anyone in Louisiana who publishes material harmful to minors on the internet to make every visitor to their website “electronically acknowledge and attest” to being 18 years old or older prior to being allowed access to such material.

Media Coalition files lawsuit

On November 4, 2015, Media Coalition brought a lawsuit on behalf of some of its members and Louisiana booksellers and publishers challenging a law that required websites to age-verify every internet user before providing access to material that could be deemed “harmful to minors.”

The plaintiffs are Garden District Book Shop, Octavia Books, Future Crawfish Paper (publisher of Anti-Gravity magazine), the American Booksellers Association and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The complaint [2] argues that the law violates the First Amendment by placing severe burdens on booksellers and publishers. The law also violates the rights of older minors by depriving them of access to material published on the internet because it may be inappropriate for younger minors.

To comply with the law, booksellers have to review their entire inventory to decide what publications may be inappropriate for a younger minor, and place those books behind an age-verification screen. But booksellers have more than a million books available on their website. The only alternative is to place an age-verification screen in front of the whole website, which would make them seem like an “adults only” business. Doing so would also bar any minor from finding any book on the website.

There is no way for publishers to allow access to older minors if the material may not be appropriate for a younger child. As a result, the law forces booksellers and publishers to restrict access of their customers and readers to what is acceptable for a 12 year old. The only way for an older minor to gain access to a book or magazine that he or she has a First Amendment right to access is to lie about his or her age, but doing so would be a crime under a separate law that bars lying when asked to acknowledge or attest to anything.

The law has a serious chilling effect on speech of booksellers and publishers. Failure to verify someone’s age results in a $10,000 fine — even if the person accessing the material is an adult.

Judge hears arguments on preliminary injunction

On December 7, 2015, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed a motion for preliminary injunction [3].

On December 18, 2015, U.S. District Chief Judge Brian Jackson heard arguments from the parties on the motion for preliminary injunction. At the hearing, he requested additional documents from the plaintiffs and defendants to supplement the arguments that the parties made on the motion for preliminary injunction.

On January 19, 2016, the plaintiffs filed their post-PI hearing brief [6].

On January 25, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss [8]. The plaintiffs responded with an opposition to the motion [9].

On April 29, 2016, Judge Jackson issued a ruling [1] granting the preliminary injunction and denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Judge Jackson found that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their arguments that the law is unconstitutional.


Last updated: May 2, 2016