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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

"Right idea, wrong implementation"

United States Supreme Court voids law disallowing animal cruelty videos

The recent Supreme Court rulings are starting to become troubling.
On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court annulled a federal law that made it a crime to create or profit from dog fighting videos and other animal cruelty acts by a vote of 8 to 1.
The Supreme Court has gotten it all wrong yet again. First, it was corporations have rights as everyday citizens, and now videos of dog fighting aren't illegal. What a country America is.
The case comes from the prosecution of Robert J. Stevens, an author and film producer who presented himself as an expert on pit bulls. Although he maintains that he never participated in dogfights, he did compile and sell videotapes showing dog fighting.
Isn't that still participation?
It would be like saying that the guy who is driving the getaway car during a bank robbery didn't rob the bank. The federal law bans all profiting from dog fighting.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, "The law created a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth … the government's defense of the law was both startling and dangerous."
The assumption is that the United States Congress would pass a law with a more focused scope that would be allowed under the Constitution. But with Congress seeming more like a traffic jam on Interstate 290 everyday, that is a pretty big assumption.
The government argued that such depictions are of minimal social worth and that they receive no First Amendment protection.
The rulings of the Supreme Court are troubling. The chief justice, during his vetting by the United States Senate, called himself merely an umpire of the law.
The umpire is blowing the game.
Dog fighting and other forms of animal cruelty are illegal in all 50 states. The law applies to any recording where a living animal is intentionally maimed, harmed or tortured. The intent of the law is pretty clear, regardless of what role the accused had in the video, if it depicted illegal cruelty.
The government even tried to make the analogy that animal cruelty is similar to child pornography, which gets no First Amendment protection as ruled by the Supreme Court in 1982.
The chief justice responded that child pornography is a "special case because the underlying market is intrinsically related to underlying abuse."
But animal cruelty videos are related to underlying abuse. This Supreme Court has been making horrible decisions recently. A few months ago, the Court ruled that corporations have the same rights and privileges as ordinary citizens.
The only dissenter is Justice Samuel Alito, writing the minority opinion, "The majority's opinion was filled with hypotheticals and serves to protect depraved entertainment."
The First Amendment was created to allow the free exchange of ideas, not promote depraved acts. The scope of the federal law is not too broad; in fact, it's pretty explicit. The majority in this case is plain wrong.


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