Issue 91, Fall 2003

  • A federal district court in Ohio vacated a guilty plea in a case involving a private journal describing sexual fantasies about children. Brian Dalton was charged with child pornography for the writings in his diary. He pleaded guilty, apparently unaware that he could claim that his journal was protected by the First Amendment. The plea was vacated and the case sent back for a trial at which the ACLU is expected to argue that it is unconstitutional to criminalize the act of recording one’s thoughts.
  • An Arkansas student who was disciplined by his junior high school for speaking about being gay, won a $25,000 settlement from the Pulaski County Special School District and an apology from school officials. He was forced to read scripture against homosexuality, and was “outed” to his parents, according to the ACLU lawsuit. The school district agreed that it will not again disclose a student’s sexual orientation or punish a student for talking about sexual orientation outside the classroom.
  • Political satirist Al Franken and Penguin Publishers are likely to gain a boost in sales from a suit by Fox News over the title of Franken’s new book, Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Fox claimed that Franken violated its trademark of the phrase fair and balanced, which is how the network describes its news coverage. U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin ruled that the title is parody, protected by the First Amendment.