Cyberspace v. Engler

Betweeen June of 1999 and July of 2001, Cyberspace Communications participated in an ACLU lawsuit seeking to overturn as unconstitutional a Michigan state law that would makes it illegal to transmit "sexually explicit" material to minors. This law was too broad, eroded the First Amendment right to free speech, and would have been impossible for a grass roots organizations like Cyberspace Communications to comply with. The lawsuit succeeded and the law was overturned. This web site provides information about the suit.


On June 23, 1999, Cyberspace Communications and 8 other plaintiffs filed suit to block the implementation of Michigan Public Act 33 of 1999 (The Child Online Protection Act). Cyberspace Communications released a press release on that date.

Jan Wolter prepared a draft declaration for this lawsuit. Eventually it was decided that he should give his testimony orally, and the declaration was not included in the "Request for Preliminary Injunction." It is, however, a good summary of Cyberspace's Communication's position.

On July 23, 1999, a hearing was held in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Michigan, with Jan Wolter giving testimony for Cyberspace Communications before Judge Arthur J. Tarnow. Arguments for the plaintiffs were presented by attorney Andrew A. Nickelhoff of the Detroit firm of Sachs, Waldman, O'Hare, Helveston, Bogas & McIntosh, P.C. On July 29, 1999, Judge Tarnow granted a preliminary injunction, preventing the Act from being enforced until further legal action was taken.

In April, 2000, the state appealed the preliminary injuction. On October 27, 2000, oral arguments were heard by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The three judge panel consisted of judges Norris, Guy and Hood, three very conservative judges all appointed by Presidents Reagan or Bush. Arguments for the plaintiffs were again presented by Andrew A. Nickelhoff. Also present was Michael A. Bamberger of the New York law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, who filed an amicus brief in response to this appeal. In mid-November of 2000, court upheld Judge Tarnow's preliminary injunction.

On November 15, 2000, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming Judge Tarnow's decision to grant a preliminary injunction (i.e., upholding Judge Tarnow's decision to stop the Michigan Internet Censorship Act from going into effect while the case is being litigated). The Court of Appeals opinion is only 2 pages and essentially states that Judge Tarnow did not abuse his discretion in ruling that the plaintiffs were likely to win the case on its merits. The opinion does not address the legal issues in detail and it is not going to be published in the law books.

The case was then returned to the district court court for a ruling on the actual constitutionality of the law, as opposed to simply deciding if a temporary injunction should be in place. The ACLU requested and recieved a summary judgement from the district court, so that the court would issue a ruling without further hearings. On June 1, 2001, Judge Arthur J. Tarnow issued a permanent injunction against the enforcement of Michigan's 1999 Public Act 33.

The attorney general decided not to appeal this ruling to a higher court, so the law is dead. We won!