Southeast Booksellers Association v. McMaster

371 F. Supp. 2d 773 (D.S.C. 2005)

Summary:  U.S. District Court blocked South Carolina from enforcing a “harmful to minors” law as applied to the Internet.

History: This suit was filed in November 2002 in U.S. District Court in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a challenge to South Carolina’s law barring dissemination to minors of material harmful to minors on the Internet. Plaintiffs in the case were: Southeast Booksellers Association; Print Studio South, Inc.; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; Association of American Publishers, Inc; Families Against Internet Censorship; and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

After the suit was filed in November 2002, South Carolina moved to dismiss, to abstain, or to certify questions to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Judge Duffy denied the motion on July 25, 2003, and plaintiffs and defendants filed cross motions for summary judgment on November 10.  On December 5, plaintiffs filed their brief in opposition to defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

On July 6, 2004, U.S. District Judge Duffy denied both the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ motions for summary judgment and ordered a merits hearing including evidence on the comparative effectiveness of the statutory procedure and filtering.  Plaintiffs filed a renewed motion for summary judgment and the State filed a motion to stay the case until the final decision in the COPA case.  Judge Duffy denied the motion to stay.

On February 9, 2005, plaintiffs filed a response and reply brief on the summary judgment motion.  The State replied on March 9, 2005.  The cross-motions for summary judgment were argued on April 14, 2005.

Judge Duffy issued his opinion granting summary judgment on May 9, 2005, blocking South Carolina from enforcing the law with a permanent injunction. The period of time during which South Carolina could appeal elapsed on July 13, 2005.