U.S. Supreme Court arguments on CIPA expected in late winter or early spring

Contact: Larra Clark


For Immediate Release

November 13, 2002

U.S. Supreme Court arguments on CIPA expected in late winter or early spring

Arguments on the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) are expected to begin in late winter or early spring, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court noted the case for further briefing on November 12, 2002. The government brief is due on December 27, 2002, and the brief for the ALA plaintiffs is due on January 27, 2003.

In May, the American Library Association (ALA) received a unanimous lower court ruling that CIPA is unconstitutional. The opinion was written by Chief Judge Edward R. Becker of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and joined by U.S. District Court Judges John P. Fullam and Harvey Bartle III.

The three-judge panel held that CIPA is unconstitutional because the mandated use of filtering technology on all computers will result in blocked access to substantial amounts of constitutionally protected speech. The Court found that filters both overblock (block access to protected speech) and underblock (allow access to illegal or unconstitutional speech).

The lower court permanently enjoined the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) from withholding funds from public libraries that have chosen not to install blocking technology on all Internet-ready terminals. As a result, public libraries are not required to install filters on their computers in order to receive funds from either agency. The Justice Department filed its Supreme Court appeal less than one month later.

"The lower court decision provides a very firm foundation for our argument before the Supreme Court," said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. "No mechanical device can replace guidance and education from parents, librarians and community members working together. Filters provide a false sense of security that children are protected when they are not, but education provides children with the skills to safely and effectively navigate the Internet for a lifetime of learning and enjoyment."

Plaintiffs in the suit include libraries, library users, state library associations and the Freedom to Read Foundation. People for the American Way is serving as supporting counsel for the ALA challenge. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also filed a similar challenge, and the two cases were consolidated by the district court.

ALA v. United States case argues:

  • CIPA abolishes a community's control of its library policies.
  • Filters simply do not work, and CIPA does not protect children.
  • CIPA violates the Constitution because it makes access to funding and discounts for Internet use in public libraries contingent on accepting content and viewpoint restrictions on constitutionally protected speech.
  • Poor communities and people with disabilities will be affected disproportionately if libraries are forced to choose between federal technology funding and censorship.

Over the past four years, more than $255.5 million has been disbursed to more than 5,000 public libraries through the federal E-rate program, which provides discounts on telecommunications and Internet-related technologies. The Library Services Technology Act (via the IMLS) has distributed more than $883 million to libraries nationwide since 1998.

To learn more about the ALA and the lawsuit against CIPA, please visit our
Web site or call 312-280-4223. To donate to the ALA legal defense fund online, go to: