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Justices to decide on CDA appeal

As the Supreme Court returns from its recess, the challenge to the Communications Decency Act looms as one of the largest issues among the 1,600 appeals facing the justices.

As the Supreme Court returned to work today after a three-month recess, the challenge to the federal Communications Decency Act loomed as one of the largest issues among the 1,600 appeals facing the justices.

Before the year is over, the Supreme Court will most likely decide whether to hear the landmark case that will shape the future of free speech on the Internet. The law, which was enacted as part of the sweeping Telecommunications Act signed in February, makes it illegal to post indecent or patently offensive material to minors online.

Claiming that the law's provisions are unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association challenged the CDA and won their case before a special three-judge federal panel in Philadelphia.

Separately, Joe Shea, editor of the American Reporter online newspaper, also challenged the CDA successfully in another case before a three-judge panel in Manhattan. Shea argued that the law infringes on free-speech rights online that would otherwise be protected in paper publications.

The government filed a second phase of its appeal to the Supreme Court in the ACLU case last week and is expected to file its appeal in the Joe Shea case Monday.

By the end of the month, the ACLU plans to file a motion asking the Supreme Court to uphold the Philadelphia judges' decision without a hearing, according to the organization's attorneys. They will request that the justices make that decision based on the "factual findings" of the lower court.

If the Philadelphia bench denies the motion, the Supreme Court will decide if it will accept the case for review in November--the most likely scenario. Oral arguments will then begin next summer or early fall.