On Tuesday the Supreme Court will hear argument in U.S. v. Stevens, a First Amendment case involving a statute outlawing material depicting animal cruelty. The Court will
consider a plea that it create a new exception to the First Amendment’s free speech clause, to allow the government to make it a crime to sell videotapes or other depictions of animal cruelty.
The government’s brief is here.
The First Amendment was principally designed “to create an open marketplace where ideas, most especially political ideas, may compete without government interference.” New York State Bd. of Elections v. Lopez Torres , 128 S. Ct. 791, 801 (2008); see, e.g., Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting) (First Amendment protects the “free trade in ideas”).
This Court has recognized a wide variety of governmental interests as “compelling,”[fn] and the prevention of cruelty to animals, which is an interest shared by every State and the federal government, fits comfortably on this list.
The footnote includes a cite to McConnell, noting the compelling interest of “regulating advertisements that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office.”