ALA delivers closing arguments in CIPA trial

Contact: Larra Clark


ALA News Release

For Immediate Release

April 3, 2002

ALA delivers closing arguments in CIPA trial

Wrapping up seven days of testimony, American Library Association (ALA) attorneys today presented closing arguments in their legal challenge to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Attorney Paul Smith of Jenner and Block represented the ALA in closing; arguments from both sides lasted about three hours. The ALA legal case has centered on four main points:

  • Filters don’t work. Blocking technology restricts legal and useful information, while letting through illegal materials.
  • Because blocking technology pervasively and necessarily restricts legal information, CIPA is unconstitutional.
  • Libraries should not be forced to choose between funding and censorship. Library users, particularly those in poor and isolated communities, will be the losers in this equation.
  • CIPA abolishes local decision making. The bulk of library funding is local, and libraries are governed by local agencies that set policies and procedures at the community level. CIPA demands these institutions accept a federal mandate in return for vital technology funding.

“There is much at stake in this case. Librarians play a unique role in our society: We bring people together with the information they need and want,” said ALA President John W. Berry. “Librarians do this by making sure libraries have information and ideas across the spectrum of social and political thought, so people can choose what they want to read or listen to or view. The CIPA mandates are counter to the mission of our public libraries.”

CIPA and the Neighborhood Children’s Internet Protection Act (NCIPA) were signed into law December 21, 2000. CIPA mandates the use of blocking technology for public libraries that seek Universal Service discounts (E-rate) for Internet access, Internet service or internal connections, or that seek Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds to purchase computers for Internet access or to pay for Internet access. The ALA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits challenging the law in March 2001. The cases were combined and heard by a three-judge panel made up of two district and one appellate court judge. People for the American Way is serving as supporting counsel for the ALA challenge. ACLU attorney Chris Hanson provided closing arguments on behalf of the Multnomah plaintiffs, and Rupa Bhattacharyya closed on behalf of the government.

“We are fortunate to be in the Third Circuit Court, whose judges have confronted these issues before and are familiar with many of the interests at stake,” said Judith Krug, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “This morning, the judges asked probing and detailed questions in preparation for their deliberations.” The panel consists of Third Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Edward R. Becker, District Court Judge John P. Fullam and District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III.

Proposed findings of fact and legal briefs are due to the court by April 11, and each of the parties will have one opportunity to respond to these findings and briefs by April 18. The judges will likely rule by early May so libraries will have time to prepare before E-rate and LSTA deadlines fall. The ALA will continue to post updates as they become available on the
CIPA Web site.