A District Court Panel has set an tentative date for the opening of a trial that may determine the definition of the Communications Decency Act.
"We have made a tentative agreement with the government to go to court on March 21 if they don't prosecute anyone until then," said Ann Beeson, legal counsel with the ACLU. "They have indicated that they will abide by this agreement."
The ACLU expects the judge to formalize the deal in writing today or tomorrow; until then the law remains officially in effect. Last week Judge Ronald Buckwalter blocked the "indecent" provision of the Act, but ruled that the "patently offensive" provision stay in effect. The new agreement between the ACLU and the judges means that no one will be prosecuted under any aspect of the law until at least March 21, when the trial may open.
"We were successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order on 'indecent' material, and that is still somewhat protective, but the fact is that we don't have an agreement on 'patently offensive' material in writing, so people still need to be careful," Beeson said.
Judge Buckwalter ruled last week that "patently offensive" material could include "sexual or excretory activities or organs."
The trial set for March 21 may be only the first act for a much longer work of legal theater. "Either way it will go the Supreme Court," said Beeson. "If we lose, we will file the appeal with the Supreme Court, and they would decide whether or not to take on the case. It would probably get set next term, but it could get there as soon as the fall."