Bradburn et al v. North Central Regional Library District

Filing 120

ORDER GRANTING NCRL'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND CLOSING FILE; denying 39 Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 28 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Case closed. Signed by Judge Edward F. Shea. (CV, Case Administrator)

1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON 6 7 8 9 SARAH BRADBURN, PEARL CHERRINGTON, CHARLES HEINLEN, and SECOND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION, ORDER GRANTING NCRL'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND CLOSING FILE Plaintiffs, 10 v. 11 12 NO. CV-06-0327-EFS NORTH CENTRAL REGIONAL LIBRARY DISTRICT, 13 Defendant. 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Following the Washington Supreme Court's certification ruling, the question remaining from the parties' summary judgment motions, ECF Nos. 28 & 39, is whether Defendant North Central Regional Library District's (NCRL) internet-filtering restriction Constitution. thereby policy violating is the overbroad First or a Amendment content-based to the U.S. After reviewing the submitted materials, considering the relevant authority, and hearing from counsel during an October 25, 2011 hearing,1 the Court is fully informed. For the reasons given below, the 23 24 25 26 1 Duncan Manville appeared on behalf of Plaintiffs Sarah Bradburn, Pearl Cherrington, Charles Heinlen, and the Second Amendment Foundation. Thomas Adams appeared on NCRL's behalf. ORDER ~ 1 1 Court grants 2 judgment. 3 A. NCRL summary judgment and denies Plaintiffs summary Facts2 4 With the assistance of federal funding, NCRL provides Internet 5 access at its twenty-eight libraries. Because Congress mandates that a 6 library receiving federal funds in order to provide Internet access must 7 restrict patrons' Internet access to obscene and child pornographic 8 materials, NCRL utilizes a filter (FortiGuard) to restrict its patrons' 9 Internet access to such materials. See 20 U.S.C. § 9134(f) (Children's 10 Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which also permits a library to restrict 11 additional materials). 12 and Collection Development Policy (collectively, "Policy"), NCRL sets 13 FortiGuard's filtering parameters to filter web pages and sites that 14 depict hacking, phishing, proxy avoidance, malware, and spyware; display 15 nudity; promote sexuality; or allow gambling. Not all of the blocked web 16 pages and sites contain constitutionally-unprotected speech. Therefore, 17 as a result of the FortiGuard filter, constitutionally-protected speech 18 is blocked and patrons, even adult patrons, are unable to view the 19 material. According to both its Internet Public Use Policy 20 To help reduce the number of mis-blocked web pages and sites, NCRL 21 allows patrons to submit requests to unblock a specific web page or site. 22 If NCRL believes that a blocked web page or site is appropriate for 23 24 25 26 2 The parties agree that the detailed undisputed facts contained in the Court's prior Order, ECF No. 96, still apply. Accordingly, the Court only provides the basic facts herein. ORDER ~ 2 1 viewing by all of its patrons, it adjusts FortiGuard's parameters so that 2 the web page or site is unblocked for future Internet use. 3 Through this lawsuit, Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of 4 the Policy under both the Washington and U.S. Constitutions. 5 September 30, 2008, the Court certified the Washington-constitutional 6 question to the Washington Supreme Court. 7 the Washington Supreme Court answered the certified question, finding 8 that "a public library may, consistent with article I, section 5 of the 9 Washington State Constitution, filter Internet access for all patrons 10 without disabling the filter to allow access to web sites containing 11 constitutionally protected speech upon the request of an adult library 12 patron." ECF No. 97. On On June 7, 2010, ECF No. 110 at 31. 13 Now remaining for the Court to address is whether NCRL's decision 14 to not disable the Internet filter at the request of an adult patron 15 violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 16 B. 17 Authority and Analysis The First Amendment commands: "Congress shall make no law . . . 18 abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the 19 people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a 20 redress of grievance." U.S. Const. amend. I. The government can violate 21 the First Amendment in many ways, including enacting a statute that is 22 overbroad or impermissibly regulates the content of speech.3 Ashcroft, 23 24 25 26 3 The freedom of speech has limits as certain types of speech, such as defamation, obscenity, and pornography produced with children, are unprotected by the First Amendment. ORDER ~ 3 Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coal., 535 1 535 U.S. at 244. 2 itself or restrict access to the speech: 3 violate the First Amendment. 4 529 U.S. 803, 812 (2000). 5 The government restriction may either restrict speech both forms of restrictions may United States v. Playboy Entm't Gp., Inc., The parties agree that NCRL, a government entity, restricts its 6 patrons' access to speech on the Internet. 7 what level of judicial scrutiny the Court is to apply to NCRL's access- 8 to-speech restriction. 9 and Ninth Circuit decisions, the Court concludes it must apply rational 10 11 The parties disagree as to As explained below, based on U.S. Supreme Court review to the Policy. First, a majority of the Supreme Court ruled that public-forum 12 analysis 13 appropriately exercised its collection-decision-making authority. United 14 States 15 (hereinafter "ALA"). Second, the Ninth Circuit held that rational review 16 is used where the "government provides a public service that, by its 17 nature, requires evaluations of and distinctions based on the content of 18 speech." 19 643 (9th Cir. 2010) (unpublished opinion). 20 As is v. not Am. used Library to determine Ass'n, 539 whether U.S. 94, a public 205 & library 215-16 has (2003) Ass'n of Christian Sch. Int'l v. Stearns, 362 Fed. Appx. 640, a public library, NCRL pursues the "worthy missions" of 21 facilitating learning, research, and recreational pursuits. 22 U.S. at 203. 23 not required to provide "universal coverage" and enjoys "broad discretion 24 to decide what material to provide to [its] patrons." It is undisputed that to fulfill these missions, NCRL is 25 26 U.S. 234, 245-56 (2003). ORDER ~ 4 ALA, 539 Id. at 204 1 (internal citation 2 discretion is limited to its written materials because the grant of this 3 discretion 4 However, these limitations are not the only rationale for granting a 5 library broad discretion to make "content-based judgments when deciding 6 what private speech to make available to the public." 7 library's "need to exercise judgment in making collection decisions 8 depends [also] on its traditional role in identifying suitable and 9 worthwhile material; [and] it is no less entitled to play that role when 10 it collects material from the Internet than when it collects material 11 from any other source." 12 almost unlimited amount of information available on the Internet, the 13 Supreme Court recognized that "libraries cannot possibly segregate, item 14 by item, all the Internet material that is appropriate for inclusion from 15 all that is not." 16 patrons' Internet access based on the speech's content. 17 Court subjects NCRL's filtering process to rational review. is removed). based on Id. a Plaintiffs library's Id. at 208. space argue and that NCRL's fiscal broad limitations. Id. at 204. A Given the vast, ever changing, and Accordingly, NCRL is required to evaluate its Therefore, the 18 Scrutinizing the undisputed facts under rational review, the Court 19 finds NCRL's use of FortiGuard to filter its patrons' Internet access and 20 its decision to not disable the filter upon an adult patron's request 21 complies with the First Amendment. 22 an Internet policy that can be implemented consistently throughout its 23 twenty-eight libraries, and it did so by implementing the Policy. NCRL's 24 libraries are relatively small in size and only one has a partition 25 separating the children's portion of the library from the remainder of 26 the library. ORDER ~ 5 Blocking It is reasonable for NCRL to develop Internet sites and pages that contain 1 constitutionally-protected material deemed suitable only for adults helps 2 ensure that the environment at NCRL libraries is consistent with its 3 mission of providing learning and research opportunities for individuals 4 of all ages. 5 And This is a legitimate government interest. NCRL's practice of requiring a patron to request that a 6 particular web site or page be unblocked is an efficient and rationale 7 way for NCRL to determine whether that web site or page is consistent 8 with its policies and mission, especially in light of the Internet's 9 continuous change. NCRL simply does not have the resources to have its 10 staff review the vast and limitless amount of sites and pages on the 11 Internet to determine whether they are consistent with its policies and 12 mission. 13 policies and mission, while at the same time complying with CIPA. 14 NCRL's unblocking-request process reasonably accomplishes its The Court acknowledges that this process may frustrate some adult 15 patrons. However, without the funding provided by CIPA, NCRL likely 16 could not provide any Internet access to its patrons. 17 great disservice to the NCRL patrons, many of whom live in rural areas 18 where reliable, affordably-priced Internet access may be difficult to 19 obtain. 20 C. This would be a Conclusion 21 Because NCRL's Policy, including not disabling the Internet filter 22 at the request of an adult patron, is reasonable, there is no overbreadth 23 or impermissible content-based First Amendment violation. For the above- 24 given reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED: 25 1. NCRL’s Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 28, is GRANTED. 26 2. Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 39, is DENIED. ORDER ~ 6 1 3. Judgment is to be entered in NCRL's favor with prejudice. 2 4. This file shall be CLOSED. 3 IT IS SO ORDERED. The District Court Executive is directed to enter 4 5 this Order and provide copies to counsel. DATED this 10th day of April 2012. 6 7 s/ Edward F. Shea EDWARD F. SHEA United States District Judge 8 9 Q:\Civil\2006\0327.post.certif.frm 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 ORDER ~ 7