U.S. Supreme Court

ABC Lawyer Points to Unclothed Supreme Court Sculptures During Indecency Arguments


A lawyer representing ABC pointed out some bare buttocks in the U.S. Supreme Court while arguing against the constitutionality of an indecency ban.

Former solicitor general Seth Waxman told the justices on Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission had received complaints about a network broadcast showing an unclothed statue during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. It was “very much like some of the statutes that are here in this courtroom, that had bare breasts and buttocks,” he said.

Publications carrying reports on the arguments include the National Law Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times and USA Today.

Waxman pointed out marble sculptures on the courtroom walls depicting historical and allegorical legal figures, the NLJ says. “There’s a bare buttock there, and there’s a bare buttock here,” Waxman said. “And there may be more that I hadn’t seen.”

Waxman was arguing that indecency standards regulating on-air networks, but not cable-only broadcasts, are unconstitutionally vague and violate the First Amendment. A 4-4 tie is possible in the case, which would let stand a federal appeals court ruling striking down the FCC regulations, the NLJ says. Sotomayor has recused herself and Justice Clarence Thomas “is not a certain ally” for the conservative view, since he has previously indicated he may disagree with the idea of regulating broadcast media more strictly than other media.

But the New York Times reports “the legal bottom line was not easy to discern, though there seemed to be little sentiment for a sweeping overhaul of the current system.”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. argued the restrictions are a justified “safe haven” for children because broadcasters get free access to the airwaves. The case is FCC v. Fox Television Stations.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court to Decide Whether FCC Ban on Nudity, Expletives Violates First Amendment”

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