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Packingham v. North Carolina - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 6-29-17 featuring Ilya Shapiro
Ilya Shapiro June 29, 2017

On June 19, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Packingham v. North Carolina. Lester Packingham was convicted in 2002 of taking “indecent liberties” with a minor in violation of North Carolina law, and sentenced to prison time followed by supervised release. In 2010, he was arrested after authorities came across a post on his Facebook profile--which he had set up using an alias--in which he thanked God for having a parking ticket dismissed. Packingham was charged with, and convicted of, violating a North Carolina law that restricted the access of convicted sex offenders to “commercial social networking” websites.

Packingham challenged his conviction on First Amendment grounds, arguing that the North Carolina statute unlawfully restricted his freedom of speech and association, but the Supreme Court of North Carolina ultimately rejected his claim. The website access restriction, the Court concluded, was a content-neutral, conduct-based regulation that only incidentally burdened Packingham’s speech, was narrowly tailored to serve a substantial governmental interest, and left open ample alternative channels of communication.

By a vote of 8-0, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and remanded the case. In an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court held that the North Carolina statute, which makes it a felony for a registered sex offender "to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages,” impermissibly restricts lawful speech in violation of the First Amendment. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which the Chief Justice and Justice Thomas joined. Justice Gorsuch took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Courthouse Steps: Two Cases - Matal v. Tam and Packingham v. North Carolina - Podcast

Free Speech & Election Law Practice Group Podcast
Ilya Shapiro, Michael R. Huston June 21, 2017

The Court has ruled today in two important cases, Matal v. Tam (aka "The Slants" copyright case) and Packingham v. North Carolina, which concerns a North Carolina law that restricts the access of convicted sex offenders to “commercial social networking” websites. Mr. Michael Huston and Mr. Ilya Shapiro joined us for this special Teleforum in which the holdings and reasoning of both cases were discussed.  

Featuring:

  • Mr. Michael R. Huston, Associate Attorney, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP
  • Mr. Ilya Shapiro,  Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute

Packingham v. North Carolina - Post-Argument SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 3-30-17 featuring Ilya Shapiro
Ilya Shapiro March 30, 2017

On February 27, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Packingham v. North Carolina. Lester Packingham was convicted in 2002 of taking “indecent liberties” with a minor in violation of North Carolina law, and sentenced to prison time followed by supervised release. In 2010, he was arrested after authorities came across a post on his Facebook profile--which he had set up using an alias--in which he thanked God for having a parking ticket dismissed. Packingham was charged with, and convicted of, violating a North Carolina law that restricted the access of convicted sex offenders to “commercial social networking” websites.
 
Packingham challenged his conviction on First Amendment grounds, arguing that the North Carolina statute unlawfully restricted his freedom of speech and association, but the Supreme Court of North Carolina ultimately rejected his claim. The website access restriction, the Court concluded, was a content-neutral, conduct-based regulation that only incidentally burdened Packingham’s speech, was narrowly tailored to serve a substantial governmental interest, and left open ample alternative channels of communication.

The question before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether, under the Court’s First Amendment precedents, a law that makes it a felony for any person on the state's registry of former sex offenders to “access” a website that enables communication, expression, and the exchange of information among users--if the site is “know[n]” to allow minors to have accounts--is permissible on its face and as applied to Packingham.

To discuss the case, we have Ilya Shapiro, who is Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute.

Courthouse Steps: Packingham v. North Carolina - Podcast

Free Speech & Election Law Practice Group Podcast
Ilya Shapiro March 02, 2017

In Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court will decide whether the First Amendment bars a state from banning citizens from accessing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A North Carolina state makes it a felony for any person on the state's registry of former sex offenders to "access" a wide array of websites--including Facebook, YouTube, and nytimes.com--that enable communications among users if the site is known to allow minors to have accounts. The statute does not require the state to prove the defendant has actually had contact with a minor, intended to do so, or accessed a website for any illicit or improper purpose. ​Lester Packingham was convicted of violating the law for a Facebook post in which he celebrated the dismissal of a traffic ticket, declaring "God is Good!" Packingham and his supporters contend that law amounts to a sweeping, overbroad, and vague ban on protected speech untailored to any legitimate interest and unjustified by any compelling need.

Featuring:

  • Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute

Supreme Court Preview: Packingham v. North Carolina - Podcast

Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
Jonathan Sherman, Melissa Arbus Sherry February 23, 2017

On February 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Packingham v. North Carolina. This First Amendment case deals with whether a state may bar citizens from accessing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A North Carolina state law makes it a felony for any person on the state's registry of former sex offenders to "access" a wide array of popular websites that enable communications among users if the site is known to allow minors to have accounts. The statute does not require the state to prove the defendant has actually had contact with a minor, intended to do so, or accessed a website for any illicit or improper purpose. In the trial court, the Defendant was convicted of violating the law for a Facebook post in which he celebrated the dismissal of a traffic ticket, declaring "God is Good!" Some contend that the law amounts to a sweeping, overbroad, and vague ban on protected speech untailored to any legitimate interest and is unjustified by any compelling need.

Jonathan Sherman, Partner at Boies Schiller Flexner and Melissa Arbus Sherry, Partner at Latham & Watkins will provide a preview of this interesting case.

Featuring:

  • Jonathan Sherman, Partner at Boies Schiller Flexner
  • Melissa Arbus Sherry, Latham & Watkins