By Robin Vanderwall . . . The United States Supreme Court has accepted the petition for a writ of certiorari from Lester Gerard Packingham who was arrested in 2012 for posting a message on Facebook in violation of North Carolina’s prohibition against sex offenders accessing social media websites. On petition to the U.S. Supreme Court since January 2016, the Packingham case was listed for conference four times. Packingham was previously decided by the N. C. Supreme Court in a 4-2 opinion where the majority held that prohibiting registered citizens from “accessing” social media networks permitting minors to create and maintain user profiles was constitutional in “all respects.”
Writing for the majority, Justice Robert H. “Bob” Edmunds reasoned that since the statute under review in Packingham concerned only conduct, and not speech, the impact to registered citizens’ First Amendment rights was merely incidental to the otherwise legitimate interest of the state in prohibiting such conduct. He further reasoned that there were already “ample alternative means” through which registered citizens could participate in expressive forums open and available to them. His reasoning was strained and tortured and his opinion was summarily dismembered by the dissent penned by Justice Robin E. Hudson.
For additional information and analyses of what’s at stake for the community of registered citizens throughout the entire nation, please read Eugene Volokh’s piece in the Washington Post. Prof. Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law and filed an Amicus Brief in support of the petition for Certiorari in the Packingham case.