The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, in cooperation with four other organizations and six Michigan retailers, has obtained a favorable ruling on a new Michigan display law. U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs dismissed the complaint by the First Amendment advocates, but did so with a ruling that made it safe for retailers to display materials that some might think are 'harmful to minors.' The law had provided for jail terms of up to two years and fines of up to $10,000 for retailers that display materials that might be 'harmful' (see 'CBLDF Joins Michigan Case'). Prior to this ruling, the law was dangerous to retailers because it was vaguely written and could have put retailers that display constitutionally protected material in jeopardy.
Judge Diggs' ruling significantly narrows the law's application. According to the ruling, the law only applies to publications with 'harmful' material on its covers. A retailer also cannot be punished if a minor sees 'harmful' materials, but the retailer takes steps to stop it when it's brought to his or her attention. And work with serious literary merit need not be segregated.
Jim Dana, executive director of the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, said of the ruling, 'The new law will not change the way booksellers in Michigan do business.'
The other organizations involved in the suit were the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the International Periodical Distributors Association.