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Judge Halts Enforcement of Ohio Censorship Law

2 Aug, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

The state of Ohio has been slapped with a temporary restraining order halting it from enforcing a censorship statute that was scheduled to take effect Aug. 5, according to the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA).

The law, which restricts minors' access to print, video and electronic material depicting violence, glamorizing crime, or including foul language, nudity or sexual content, was signed by the governor May 7. The VSDA contends the law is unconstitutional because it criminalizes First Amendment-protected speech and also considered its language so broad as to include a wide spectrum of generally accepted literature and popular entertainment.

The VSDA and other media groups, as part of their joint suit filed in June, convinced a U.S. District Court judge to issue the temporary measure. VSDA expects a longer term preliminary injunction against the state law to follow, staying enforcement of the law until after the issues are resolved at trial, according to Sean Bersell, VP, public affairs for the VSDA.

“We're very pleased that the judge has recognized that this statute is unconstitutional,” Bersell said. “We attempted to convince the legislature and the governor not to enact this law because it is so patently unconstitutional. While we're pleased the court sided with us, we do think it's unfortunate the legislators choose to ignore the U.S. Constitution.”

The state's likely next move would be to appeal the preliminary injunction. A trial is unlikely, said Bersell, given that, historically, a judge issuing an injunction based on initial consideration of the constitutional merits of a law is rarely swayed by any new arguments in trial that would change his view on the constitutionality of the statute.

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