PSINet, Inc. v. Chapman

362 F.3d 227 (4th Cir. 2004), aff’g 167 F. Supp. 2d 878 (W.D. Va. 2001)

Summary: On March 25, 2004, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that a Virginia law amending the harmful to juveniles law to impose restrictions on Internet content was invalid under both the First Amendment and the Commerce Clause.

HistoryThis suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of amendments to the Virginia harmful to juveniles law to impose restrictions on Internet content (after a false start in the Eastern District). The issues are similar to those in ALA v. Pataki, ACLU v. Johnson, and Cyberspace v. Engler.  The hearing on the preliminary injunction was held on February 15, 2000 and on August 8. 2000.  The Court found the statute unconstitutional, granting a preliminary injunction. On October 11, 2001, the Court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs (7).

Virginia appealed to the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and arguments were heard on October 28, 2002. In February 2003, the Fourth Circuit certified two questions of state law to the Virginia Supreme Court (5), rather than deciding the appeal. Plaintiffs filed a motion suggesting that the certification did not comply with the rules of procedure of the Virginia Supreme Court in that neither questions were dispositive of the case. On March 6, the Virginia Supreme Court issued an order accepting the certified questions, but also directing counsel to brief and argue whether the questions were outcome dispositive. Virginia’s brief (6) was submitted on April 15, 2003. Plaintiffs’ (4) was submitted May 12. Defendants replied (3).  Oral arguments were heard on June 5.  On September 12, the Virginia Supreme Court refused to accept the certification (2).

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case on March 25th, upholding the District Court decision that the statute is invalid under both the Commerce Clause and the First Amendment of the Constitution (12).  On April 8, the Commonwealth of Virginia filed a motion for rehearing or rehearing en banc and on April 29, plaintiffs filed their motion of opposition to the petition for rehearing en banc (13).  The Court denied the petition for rehearing en banc on June 24.

In October of 2004, the period of time for Virginia to petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court elapsed, ending the case.  Fees and costs were granted by both the District Court and the Fourth Circuit.