Legal – Cases –  COPA (Gonzales v. ACLU II: )
Case Name: 
American Civil Liberties Union, et al v. Gonzales, et al.  Case # 2:98-cv-05591-LR.  Date filed: 10/22/1998

After the Communications Decency Act (CDA)  was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress passed the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) in  1998.   COPA was more narrowly focused than the CDA, and prohibited commercial websites from making available material that is “harmful to minors,” with penalties of up to $50,000 fines and 6 months in prison.  Like the CDA, COPA was challenged by a coalition of civil liberties groups, and the government was been barred from enforcing COPA since 1998.  Also like the CDA, the effectiveness of filtering software figured prominently in the case.  The 2006 trial involved several experts on filtering software.

COPA was found unconstitutional.  In 1999, a trial judge barred the DOJ from enforcing COPA, a ruling that was upheld in 1999 by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Third Circuit ruling struck more broadly at “harmful to minors” laws, and found that “community standards” were not applicable to the Internet.   In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the “community standards” ruling and returned COPA to the Third Circuit.   In 2003, the Third Circuit again struck down COPA, and again the DOJ appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.   In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the restraining order against enforcing COPA, but returned COPA to the trial court.  In 2006, another trial was held and COPA was again struck down as unconstitutional. The trial court found that filtering software was a less restrictive alternative, and after reviewing much evidence found that filters were “about 95 percent effective.” In 2007, the DOJ appealed the trial court ruling to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  On July 22, 2008 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals struck down COPA again.  The DOJ filed an appeal to the Supreme Court again.  On January 22, 2009, the US Supreme Court declined to rehear the case.

Closed.  Struck down by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Cert. denied by the US Supreme Court.

Chronology & Legal Documents:
10/21/98          COPA enacted (Text of law)
10/22/98          ACLU, et. al. file complaint
11/17/98          ACLU, et. al. files brief with trial court
11/19/98          Judge Reed issues Temporary Restraining Order
06/22/00          Third Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down COPA
09/15/00          DOJ files appeal to Supreme Court
04/16/01          ACLU files brief opposing DOJ appeal
05/13/02          Supreme Court sends COPA back to Third Circuit
07/01/02          DOJ files brief on remand in Third Circuit
08/01/02          ACLU files brief on remand in Third Circuit
03/06/03          Third Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down COPA
8/15/03            DOJ files appeal to Supreme Court
12/15/03          DOJ files brief to Supreme Court
01/15/03          ACLU files brief to Supreme Court
02/01/03          DOJ files reply to ACLU in Supreme Court
06/29/04          Supreme Court again returns COPA to trial court
12/08/04          ACLU files Amended Complaint
01/28/05          DOJ files response to Amended Complaint
05/08/06          Philip Stark files expert report on filter effectiveness
07/06/06          Philip Stark files rebuttal report
10/09/06          DOJ files proposed findings of fact
10/09/06          ACLU files proposed findings of fact
10/09/06          ACLU files opposition to DOJ experts
10/17/06          DOJ files pretrial brief
10/17/06          ACLU files pretrial brief
10/23/06          Trial Transcripts:
October 23, 2006 – Trial Opens
October 24, 2006
October 25, 2006
October 26, 2006
October 30, 2006
October 31, 2006
November 1, 2006
November 2, 2006
November 6, 2006
November 7, 2006
November 8, 2006
November 9, 2006
November 14, 2006
November 15, 2006
November 20, 2006 – Closing Arguments
12/08/06          DOJ files proposed findings of fact
12/08/06          ACLU files proposed findings of fact
03/22/07          Trial court strikes down COPA
05/18/07          DOJ files notice of appeal with Third Circuit
09/17/07          DOJ files appeal to Third Circuit
10/07/07          ACLU files reply to DOJ appeal
10/29/07          CDT files amicus brief
07/22/08          3rd Circuit Strikes down COPA
10/09/08          DOJ files appeal to US Supreme Court
11/26/08          ACLU files brief in opposition
12/15/08          DOJ files reply to ACLU brief in opposition
1/21/09            Supreme Court refuses to rehear COPA

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