First Amendment and Full-Frontal Drive-In
Posted by Writing PIs on July 16, 2009
It’s July 16, 12 days from the bar exam. Time for another “Postscripts from the Bar Exam Edge.” Today’s topis is “First Admendment and Full-Frontal Drive-In” which is a story about some big-screen jiggling in Jacksonville, Florida, which led to a case discussed in Shaun’s bar exam course.
Here we go…
Back in 1972, a Richard Erznoznik (would we make this up?) was the manager of the University Drive-In Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida. Seems police driving down a neighboring road noticed he was showing movies with bare body parts that could be seen by anybody driving down that road. They charged him with a Class C misdemeanor offense for violating a statute that banned the public exhibition of certain male or female bare body parts on a movie screen at drive-in theatres. The Jacksonville Municipal Court convicted him of this offense, but Mr. Erznoznik felt his first amendment rights had been violated and he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Didn’t hurt that his appeal was backed and aided by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed his conviction (the decision, btw, was split–with William Douglas on his side). Their ruling stated that “…when the government, acting as censor, undertakes selectively to shield the public from some kinds of speech on the ground that they [the speech] are more offensive than others, the First Amendment strictly limits its power…the ordinance is not directed at explicit nudity, nor is it otherwise limited, thus it [the ordinance] would bar a film containing a picture of a baby’s [bottom], the nude body of a war victim, or scenes from a culture in which nudity is indigenous. Clearly, all nudity cannot be deemed obscene, even as [viewed] to minors.”
In front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Jacksonville city attorney had tried to argue that the ordinance was justified to prevent “distraction to passing motorists” and the U.S. Supreme Court responded, “There is no reason to think that a wide variety of other scenes in the customary screen diet ranging from soap opera to violence would be any less distracting to passing motorists.”
So Mr. Erznoznik won his battle with the First Amendment and full-frontal drive-in.
Have a great weekend, everyone, and keep your eyes on the road.