Tag Archives: privacy

Arizona Obscenity Law 40 Years After The Last Picture Show Ban

I had a discussion with a family member over the phone the other day about modern movies and obscenity.  “Joe, have you heard about the movie 50 Shades of Grey coming out?” Because of my female friends and acquaintances I have some passing familiarity with the subject matter.  “Do you think it could be considered obscenity?  Some people are saying it is kinda like pornography for women.” Inquired my family member.  Well that is some food for thought…

It turns out that city of Phoenix has banned a movie before because of obscenity.  Could it try to do it again?  Using the movie 50 Shades of Grey as an example, I will analyze if a commercial movie with national appeal could be considered obscenity or not.

Phoenix’s Last Picture Show Ban

Almost forty-one years ago, the city of Phoenix, Arizona banned The Last Picture Show from its theaters because of obscenity. BBS Productions, Inc v. Purcell, 360 F. Supp 801 (D. Ariz 1973). The Phoenix City Attorney objected to “total frontal nudity of a female swimmer,” lasting approximately four seconds. Id. Apparently the scene in question involved Cybil Shepherd skinny-dipping.  The film received an R (restricted) from the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America).  The Phoenix City Attorney said the film could be played if that four seconds of nudity was deleted from the film.  Id. Phoenix claimed the movie violated Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-537 (1971), which defined and banned obscenity.  “It is unlawful for any person knowingly to place explicit sexual material upon public display, or knowingly to fail to take prompt action to remove such a display from property . . under his control after learning of its existence.”  Id. (quoting Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-537 (1971)).

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Privacy and Justice Alito

Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito gave an in-depth interview to American Spectator magazine.  It is a wide ranging interview that encompasses both his personal life and judicial philosophy.

The Justice describes his judicial philosophy to the magazine.  “’I start out with originalism,’ he says. ‘I do think the Constitution means something and that that meaning does not change. Some of its provisions are broadly worded. Take the Fourth Amendment. We have to decide whether something is a reasonable search or seizure. That’s really all the text of the Constitution tells us. We can look at what was understood to be reasonable at the time of the adoption of the Fourth Amendment. But when you have to apply that to things like a GPS that nobody could have dreamed of then, I think all you have is the principle and you have to use your judgment to apply it.'”

I think I would consider myself a practical originalist.

I find this view interesting, to say the least.  There is so much how our country has changed since the adoption of the Constitution, I think I like this pragmatic approach.  To me at least, our forefather’s and their intentions play a critical role in interpreting the Constitution, but it cannot be the end-all, be-all of the analysis.  I think how society changes also needs to be taken into account.  I have never heard of the term ‘practical originalist’ before, so I am happy he gave it some context.

The interview also focused on technology.  There are several high profile cases this year including ABC v. Aero (transmitting public programming over the Internet to subscribers), and Riley v. California (cell phone search by police)One of the critiques of the courts is that they do not understand technology as well as other segments of society.

We need to own up to the fact that we are a lot older than a lot of the population. We don’t have the same level of experience with these things that a lot of people do.

It is refreshing to me when anyone is self-aware enough to admit his or her shortcomings — it is even more impressive when that person has the power that a Supreme Court Justice does.

It is a really interesting read.  I gained insight, understanding, and consequently respect for Justice Alito.  It is a good read.

Samuel Alito: A Civil Man

Arizona Legal News

  • Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the ‘Revenge Porn,’ bill into law this week.  The law with  seeks to establish privacy rights on the Internet, but some say it may unconstitutionally infringe upon the First Amendment. [Phoenix New Times]
  • Some are accusing the Phoenix Veterans Health Care Center of corruption and unnecessary deaths.  A preliminary investigation from the Veterans Administration indicates no wrong doing on the part of the hospital. [ABC 15]
  • Gravity author sues Warner Bros. over lack of attribution in movie.  A failure to credit one’s work in an area where there is a standard practice of credit/attribution may be a civil violation (think of movie credits, magazine credits, CD credits, etc).  [NY Times]
  • For anyone who has ever made a mistake in a court filing, it may be comforting to know you are not alone.  United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissent in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, L. P. To make his argument, he cited a case he authored the majority opinion more than ten years ago.  However, his dissent misstated the holding. [NPR]
  • It is six years after the housing mortgage meltdown on Wall Street. The government has only prosecuted a single person, so far.  Corporations may be too big to fail, but can they also be too big to prosecute?  [ProPublica]
  • An execution by lethal injection in Oklahoma this week was botched.  After the experimental cocktail of drugs was intravenously injected it took over forty-five minutes for the inmate to die.  Fifteen minutes into the execution, it is reported that the inmate tried to talk.  Then the Director of Prisons allegedly said the chemicals did not make it into the veins.  After drug companies said they did not want their drugs to be used in executions, death penalty states, including Arizona, are searching for new ways to perform lethal injections.  Are these experimental executions a violation of the Eighth Amendment?  [Atlantic]
  •  There are rumors of facial recognition technology being deployed on the internet by private companies to the government.  Where are the privacy protections?  Legislators, are you listening? [Guardian]