Federal judge issues restraining order against state law aimed at Backpage.com

Friday, January 4, 2013 at 2:02pm

U.S. District Court Judge John Nixon issued a temporary restraining order against the state of Tennessee yesterday, preventing them from enforcing a law aimed at websites — specifically Backpage.com — which sell ads that critics say promote child sex trafficking.

The law, known as Tennessee Public Charter 1075, makes it illegal to sell advertisements that “would appear to a reasonable person” to include a “commercial sex act … with a minor.”

Backpage.com sued state attorney general Robert Cooper Jr., claiming that the new law violating the Communications Decency Act of 1996, the First and 14th amendments, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In issuing the order, Nixon agreed on all counts, writing that Tennessee law “flatly conflicts with federal law.”

“The Constitution tells us that — when freedom of speech hangs in the balance — the state may not use a butcher knife on a problem that requires a scalpel to fix,” Nixon wrote in the order. “Yet, this appears to be what the Tennessee legislature has done in passing the law at issue.”

Nixon notes that the General Assembly passed the law “with no substantive debate and no discussion by legislators,” except for a lone request from a state senator to ask the attorney general to verify the law’s constitutionality.

Nixon’s ruling falls in line with a U.S. District Court of Western Washington ruling that also issued a restraining order against a state law in Backpage.com’s favor. Nixon called the legislation passed in Tennessee a “near-carbon-copy” of an early draft of the Washington legislation.

The two sides presented oral arguments to Nixon in August.

Jim Grant, a Seattle-based attorney for Backpage.com, said he was reviewing the order and wouldn’t comment on the order until after he contacted his client.

A spokeswoman from the state attorney general’s office said they were reviewing the matter.

10 Comments on this post:

By: Jughead on 1/4/13 at 1:39

Once again, the judiciary protects the depraved and sick. Watch America implode.

By: ancienthighway on 1/4/13 at 11:29

And gun carry legislation continues to be introduced and passed.

By: TNLawGirl on 1/5/13 at 4:24

As long as the Constitution still stands, the 1st Amendment protects free speech. Tennessee would have to show a compelling state interest as to why 1st Amendment privileges were being restricted, and it is their burden to do so. I am grateful that a Federal judge struck down the ordinance as I would not want my right privileged.

However, I think the state of Tennessee needs to address this issue by spending more time on how to prevent the problem that they are trying to prevent and make it constitutionally valid. The article makes clear that the "General Assembly passed the law 'with no substantive debate and no discussion by legislators,' except for a lone request from a state senator to ask the attorney general to verify the law’s constitutionality.

That is a text book violation of our Constitution.

By: sonny1024 on 1/5/13 at 6:32

FREE SPEECH? If we have free speech in TN then someone needs to tell the police that because the ones we know damn sure don't believe we have it. example, police stops you for running stop sign after he asked for your DL insurance and registration you say I don't think I ran that stop sign. officer says yes you did well you think I did and I believe I didn't. officer well shut up about it or I will arrest you .now if you open your mouth your arrested so where is the FREE SPEECH without getting arrested ? this happen and ofcourse the people said know more took the ticket and left. now before I here all this is a different case or you cant argue about a ticket or argue with the police my point is FREE SPEECH in TN isnt what most people belive it is.

By: ancienthighway on 1/5/13 at 11:16

Sonny, you are probably confusing obstruction of justice, basically interfering with the policeman's job, with freedom of speech. The correct venue for pleading your case would have been in traffic court as opposed to paying the fine outright. Sounds to me like he let you have your piece, restated what he saw, and when you continued to state what you felt happened, and most likely in a more belligerent manner, he offered to arrest you if you weren't quiet.

By: sonny1024 on 1/6/13 at 8:01

Interfering with the officer with free speech , very interesting, most likely in a belligerent manner I ask an officer a question and I am belligerent I will know better next time but it want to be with that officer because last I heard he was a clerk at a convenience store it seems he couldn't stand for people to ask him a question they where all being BELLIGERENT as you call it I guess the chief and the mayor where being BELLIGERENT when they fired him. P.S, he was fired for " conduct reasons it seems he liked to be rude to the public or was he being BELLIGERENT?

By: Jughead on 1/7/13 at 8:03

@TNlawnut: That argument is old, misused, and tiresome. The same "free speech" nuts that protect everything depraved are the first to demand silence from Christians.

Disgusting, and all part of the meltdown of what once was a great society--America.

By: Jughead on 1/7/13 at 8:05

backpage.com doesn't care less about "free speech." They just want ad revenue, and are willing to put children's safeties at risk to do so. And, liberal wingnut judges trample the concept of "free speech" to allow it to happen.

Depraved, disgusting, AMERICA!

By: budlight on 1/7/13 at 9:47

Sonny, at the point of the traffic stop is not the place to argue your disagreement with the officer. That is to be done in Court, in front of a judge. I know. I was stopped and did not agree with the officer.

In court, I presented my own case with measurements and facts conflicting the officer's statement. The judge asked him a few questions. Based on his answers, the judge dismissed my ticket. Plain and simple.

So don't ask questions of the officer. Present facts to the judge. You'll probably have a better chance of getting it dismissed.

By: wasaw on 1/7/13 at 10:46

Nominating john nixon to the federal bench was probably one of the greatest mistakes by the former peanut farmer, jimmy carter. nixon actually took "senior status" (retired) from the U.S. Federal Court in 1998, He is able to come back to the court and pick and choose cases he desires to hear. We can never get rid of the bad ones. They think their wisdom is a must for our society.

nixon was brainwashed at Harvard and Vanderbilt. He's earned most of his livelihood at the government trough. Isn't it great to live in a nation where promoting child sex activities is approved by a federal judge. You know, several judges have been caught in child sexaul stings. judge nixon, if you're reading this, "Are my opinions protected by the second amendment"?