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Doe v. Harris

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    November 18, 2014
  • Outcome
    Law or Action Overturned or Deemed Unconstitutional, Injunction or Order Granted
  • Case Number
    772 F.3d 563
  • Region & Country
    United States, North America
  • Judicial Body
    Appellate Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law, Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Privacy, Data Protection and Retention
  • Tags
    Websites, Internet, On-line Expression, Social Media, Data Protection and Retention, Anonymity, Privacy

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Plaintiffs filed a federal class-action lawsuit to block implementation of provisions of Proposition 35 requiring anyone who is a registered sex offender to to turn over a list of all their Internet identifiers and service providers to law enforcement. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of Proposition 35, and in early 2015 the state of California decided not to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.


Facts

The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of registered sex offenders to block implementation of provisions of Proposition 35, or the CASE Act. The CASE Act is a Californian ballot measure that required anyone who is a registered sex offender (including those with decades-old low-level offenses) to turn over a list of all their internet identifiers and service providers to law enforcement. Before the CASE Act, California’s criminal statutes required a lifetime registration of sex offenders even for low-level convictions, as well as frequent updates for violent offenders.

The plaintiffs were a class of registered sex offenders who used the internet to advocate anonymously on behalf of sex offenders and to comment on news articles, forums, and blogs. They sued the state of California on the day the CASE Act took effect, alleging that the relevant provisions violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association, and that the statutory provisions are void for vagueness in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The plaintiffs successfully moved for a temporary restraining order, which remained in effect until the district court ruled on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

The district court concluded that the CASE Act was content neutral and should be reviewed under an intermediate level of scrutiny. Applying the test for intermediate scrutiny, the district court found that the CASE Act was not narrowly tailored to serve the government’s important interest in combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The district court also stated that the loss of First Amendment rights is an irreparable injury.


Decision Overview

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court in that registered sex offenders who have completed their terms of probation and parole should have their First Amendment rights protected. The Court then held that First Amendment scrutiny was appropriate because the CASE Act imposed a substantial burden on sex offenders’ ability to engage in legitimate speech and to do so anonymously.

In applying the intermediate scrutiny test the Court concluded that the CASE Act offended protected speech by: 1. Not making clear what sex offenders were required to report; 2. Provided insufficient safeguards that would prevent the public release of the information that the sex offenders had to report; and 3. The twenty-four hour reporting requirement was too extreme. The Court stated that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment challenge, and that the district court did not abuse its powers in deciding that all the necessary elements for obtaining a preliminary injunction were met. The Court affirmed the district court’s judgement, finding that the statute was overly broad and violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association, issuing a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the CASE Act.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

By requiring all sex offenders to obey the vague and burdensome reporting requirements, the state of California was chilling speech on the internet. By finding that the law violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, the Ninth Circuit expanded the plaintiffs’ right to expression on the internet.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • U.S., In re Alva, 92 P.3d 311 (Cal. 2014)

    92 P.3d 311, 314.

  • U.S., Thalheimer v. City of San Diego, 645 F.3d 1109 (9th Cir. 2011)

    645 F.3d 1109, 1115.

  • U.S., Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843 (2006)

    547 U.S. 843, 848.

  • U.S., Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266 (1948)

    334 U.S. 266, 285.

  • U.S., McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U.S. 467 (1991)
  • U.S., Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984)

    468 U.S. 517, 524.

  • U.S., Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817 (1974)

    417 U.S. 817, 822.

  • U.S., Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972)

    408 U.S. 471, 477.

  • U.S., Birzon v. King , 469 F.2d 1241 (2d Cir. 1972)

    469 F.2d 1241, 1243.

  • U.S., United States v. Quinzon , 643 F.3d 1266 (9th Cir. 2011)

    643 F.3d 1266, 1272-73.

  • U.S., United States v. Goddard , 537 F.3d 1087 (9th Cir. 2008)

    537 F.3d 1087, 1090.

  • U.S., United States v. Sales, 476 F.3d 732 (9th Cir. 2007)

    476 F.3d 732, 736.

  • U.S., United States v. Barsumyan, 517 F.3d 1154 (9th Cir. 2008)

    517 F.3d 1154, 1161-62.

  • U.S., United States v. Cardona, 903 F.2d 60, 63 (1st Cir. 1990)

    903 F.2d 60, 63.

  • U.S., United States v. Knights , 534 U.S. 112 (2001)

    534 U.S. 112, 119.

  • U.S., Williamson v. Gregoire, 151 F.3d 1180 (9th Cir. 1998)

    151 F.3d 1180, 1181.

  • U.S., Gonzalez v. Duncan , 551 F.3d 875 (9th Cir. 2008)

    551 F.3d 875, 889.

  • U.S., Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc.,131 S.Ct. 2653 (2011)

    131 S.Ct. 2653, 2664.

  • U.S., United States v. Playboy Entm't Grp., 529 U.S. 803 (2000)

    529 U.S. 803, 812.

  • U.S., Arcara v. Cloud Books, Inc., 478 U.S. 697 (1986)

    478 U.S. 697, 706.

  • U.S., Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minn. Comm'r of Revenue, 460 U.S. 575 (1983)
  • U.S., Lamont v. Postmaster Gen., 381 U.S. 301 (1965)

    381 U.S. 301, 307.

  • U.S., McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334 (1995)

    514 U.S. 334, 355.

  • U.S., Buckley v. Am. Constitutional Law Found., 525 U.S. 182 (1999)

    525 U.S. 182, 200.

  • U.S., In re Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d 1168 (9th Cir. 2011)
  • U.S., Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997)

    521 U.S. 844, 870.

  • U.S., Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703 (2000)

    530 U.S. 703, 719.

  • U.S., Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92 (1972)

    408 U.S. 92, 95.

  • U.S., Turner Broadcasting Sys. Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622 (1994)

    512 U.S. 622, 642.

  • U.S., Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989)

    491 U.S. 781, 791.

  • U.S., Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010)

    558 U.S. 310, 340.

  • U.S., Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312 (1988)

    485 U.S. 312, 320.

  • U.S., Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc., 475 U.S. 41 (1986)

    475 U.S. 41, 48.

  • U.S., Doe v. Shurtleff, 628 F.3d 1217 (10th Cir. 2010)

    628 F.3d 1217, 1223.

  • U.S., Doe v. Prosecutor, Marion County, 705 F.3d 694 (7th Cir. 2013)

    705 F.3d 694, 698.

  • U.S., Doe v Nebraska, 898 F. Supp. 2d 1086 (D. Neb. 2012)

    898 F. Supp.2d 1086, 1093, 1107-08.

  • U.S., White v. Baker, 696 F. Supp.2d 1298 (N.D. Ga. 2010)

    696 F. Supp.2d 1298, 1307-08.

  • U.S., State v. Packingham, 748 S.E.2d 146 (N.C. Ct. App. 2013)

    748 S.E.2d 146, 149-50.

  • U.S., Clark v. Cmty. for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288 (1984)

    468 U.S. 288, 293.

  • U.S., United States v. Rearden, 349 F.3d 608 (9th Cir. 2003)

    349 F.3d 608, 621.

  • U.S., City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, Inc., 535 U.S. 425 (2002)

    535 U.S. 425, 435.

  • U.S., United States v. Curtain, 588 F.3d 993 (9th Cir. 2009)
  • U.S., United States v. Daniels, 541 F.3d 915 (9th Cir. 2008)
  • U.S., United States v. Stoterau, 524 F.3d 988 (9th Cir. 2008)
  • U.S., Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002)

    535 U.S. 234, 244.

  • U.S., Virginia v. Hicks, 539 U.S. 113 (2003)

    539 U.S. 113, 119.

  • U.S., Virginia v. American Booksellers Assoc., 484 U.S. 383 (1988)

    484 U.S. 383, 397.

  • U.S., Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104 (1972)

    408 U.S. 104, 109.

  • U.S., NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415 (1963)

    371 U.S. 415, 438.

  • U.S., Baggett v. Bullitt, 377 U.S. 360 (1964)

    377 U.S. 360, 372.

  • U.S., Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Pub'g Co., 486 U.S. 750 (1988)

    486 U.S. 750, 757.

  • U.S., United States v. Stevens, 559 U.S. 460 (2010)

    559 U.S. 460, 480.

  • U.S., Brown v. Socialist Workers '74 Campaign Comm'n, 459 U.S. 87 (1982)

    459 U.S. 87, 100.

  • U.S., Doe v. 2themart.com Inc., 140 F. Supp. 2d 1088 (W.D. Wash. 2001)

    140 F. Supp. 2d 1088, 1092.

  • U.S., Klein v. City of San Clemente, 584 F.3d 1196 (9th Cir. 2009)

    584 F.3d 1196, 1207.

  • U.S., Associated Press v. Otter, 682 F.3d 821 (9th Cir. 2012)

    682 F.3d 821, 826.

  • U.S., Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347 (1976)

    427 U.S. 347, 373.

  • U.S., Warsoldier v. Woodford, 418 F.3d. 989 (9th Cir. 2005)

    418 F.3d. 989, 1001.

  • U.S., Ashcroft v. ACLU, 542 U.S. 656 (2004)

    542 U.S. 656, 664-65.

  • U.S., Sammartano v. First Judicial Dist. Court, 303 F.3d 959 (9th Cir. 2002)

    303 F.3d 959, 974.

  • U.S., Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7 (2008)

    555 U.S. 7, 20.

General Law Notes

In early 2015 the state of California stated that it would not appeal the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Although the CASE Act was unique to California, the Ninth Circuit’s decision established a binding precedent for all states located within in the Ninth Circuit, and persuasive precedent to other circuit courts of appeal.

Official Case Documents

Official Case Documents:


Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:


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