Facts: Petitioner Sarah Bradburn filed suit against the respondent North Central Library District in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, asserting that the library’s policy of installing filtering software on its public computers to bar internet access to adult-oriented websites harmful to minors and refusing to unblock properly blocked websites upon request by an adult represented an overbroad and content-based restriction upon speech that rose to the level of a prior restraint in violation of the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I §5 of the Washington State Constitution. The District Court certified to the Supreme Court of Washington the question of whether the library’s policy was inconsistent with Article I §5.
Question(s): Does the library’s policy constitute a prior restraint or its functional equivalent?
Does the library’s policy constitute a content-based restriction?
Conclusion: Chief Justice Madsen’s opinion for the Court ruled that the library’s policy does not violate Article I §5 insofar as it is analogous to a collection decision and collection decisions by public libraries do not represent prior restraints as they do not prevent or attempt to prevent speech and as libraries are accorded considerable discretion in selecting appropriate material and are not obligated to include all constitutionally protected speech. Furthermore, the Court held that the policy is also not a content-based restriction as it is viewpoint neutral and reasonable in light of the library’s mission and policies.
Petitioner: Sarah Bradburn
(Counsel: Duncan Emerson Manville, Sarah A. Dunne, and Catherine Crump)
Respondent: North Central Regional Library District
(Counsel: Thomas Dean Adams and Celeste Mountain Monroe)
Argument: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 2:30pm
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Prevailing Party: North Central Regional Library District (Respondent)
Court: Madsen1 Court (2010-)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form. Each opinion should appear next to the Justice who authored it.