Citizens United isn’t the only First Amendment case on the Court’s mind

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.”

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