(Read Part I HERE.)
Well, the media's buzzing again with news that the Supreme Court issued its ruling in United States versus Stevens, the federal criminal case in which Stevens was convicted for selling videos depicting dogfighting and hogcatching. The Supreme Court ended up agreeing with the Third Circuit and striking down the federal statute as unconstitutional because it was overbroad.
In my first blog about this case, I said that the case really wasn't about dogfighting or dogfighting videos. I still think that. The crux of this whole case is whether our legislature wrote the law too sloppily. The Court basically said that a literal reading of the language of the statute could criminalize many other otherwise "innocent" behaviors and even though the Government said that it did not intend to prosecute those "innocent" behaviors, the Court said it would not "uphold an unconstitutional statute merely because the Government promised to use it responsibly."
I know many of you are up in arms and disappointed and angry. I get it. And I understand the horror that Justice Alito writes about in his dissent that crush videos are already selling again based on this statute being stricken. I read the Supreme Court's opinion only to say that the Court won't uphold a statute as constitutional based only on the Government's assurance that it won't apply the law as broadly as it's written. The Court very clearly stated (and appeared to hint) that it was not deciding whether a criminal statute that was indeed limited to crush videos and other depictions of extreme animal cruelty would be constitutional; today it only decided that this particular statute was not so limited.
So many of our laws are horribly written. It's just that not many of them get in front of the Supreme court. This was a terribly written law that gave prosecutors much too much discretion.
So what now? I stand by my initial review of this case. It's our job is to get on the horn fast and tell our congresspeople that we want them to do their job and write a better, more narrowly tailored law criminalizing what they intended to intially: extreme animal cruelty, including dogfighting and crush videos.