Friday, February 06, 2009

11th Circuit approves book banning -- case not over yet

By Julie Kay

So the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in the controversial, three-year-old case of book banning brought by the ACLU against the Miami-Dade School Board. The court, in a 2-1 opinion, reversed U.S. Circuit Court Judge Alan Gold and ruled that the School Board was within its rights to yank the childrens' book Vamos a Cuba due to "factual inaccuracies."
The School Board had argued that the book -- part of a 24-volume series on life in different countries -- portrayed life under dictator Fidel Castro as essentially overly positive. The ACLU brought the case on constitutional/book banning grounds, and the school district has spent a quarter-of-million dollars defending it.
While school board members applauded the ruling, the ACLU promised a certain appeal. Lawyers there are currently deciding whether to request an enbanc hearing before the 11th or go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to ACLU spokesman Brendan Hensler.
"This is the first case where a book was banned for what it doesn't say," Hensler said. "People recognize that book banning is not the solution -- that we shouldn't take books away but add more."
The books, which were replaced on the shelves of school libraries after Gold's ruling, will stay on the shelves until the litigation plays out, he said.
Interesting fact: it's unclear if any of the controversial books are even on the shelves any more. Most were checked out or stolen by souvenir collectors or angry residents.

Are you surprised by the 11th Circuit's ruling authored by Judge Ed Carnes? Will the U.S. Supreme Court take a book banning case?


Rumpole said...

if the government can shut you down based on "factual inaccuracies" then I'm doomed.

David Oscar Markus said...

Thanks for the post Julie!

David Oscar Markus said...

I like the conclusion to the dissent:

For decades, residents of Communist Cuba have emigrated to the United
States to escape the repressive totalitarian regime of its dictator, to seek
freedom, and to enjoy the privileges of United States citizenship. Prominent
among those privileges is the freedom of speech, protected by the First
Amendment to the United States Constitution. The banning of children’s
books from a public school library under circumstances such as these offends
the First Amendment. As one Cuban American lamented, “I fear we may
have become what we protest against—a totalitarian government.” Matthew I.
Pinzur, Book on Cuba To Stay, For Now, MIAMI HERALD, April 19, 2006,
[Plaintiff’s Exhibit 20].
“Don’t like the book? Don’t check it out. That’s a choice unavailable to
people in Cuba.” Michael Putney, Let’s Close the Book on Attempts to Censor,
MIAMI HERALD, April 19, 2006, [Plaintiff’s Exhibit 20.]

Ed Williams said...

Does anyone care that the ACLU is making the school board (which pisses away money even when it operates honestly) spend hundreds of thousands for the litigation?

When I went to public school, I carried a knife and we trusted in God, not the ACLU or the silly school board. More banned concepts I suppose.

South Florida Lawyers said...

No one "made the School Board" litigate this case except the School Board. Their judgment on most legal matters is reliably wrong -- but that's why we love them!

Julie Kay blogging here? Darn I'm jealous.

Anonymous said...

Calling it "book banning" doesn't make it so.

(However the ability to garner the support of countless commentators is impressive.)

Of course, a school cannot be bound for eternity to keep in its collection an admittedly erroneous book just because at the time of the initial purchase, an administrator failed to adequately assess the veracity of its contents.

Anonymous said...

It's hard for me to opine on this one because I would be absolutely behind the school board if it decided to ban sexually explicit books, but I would be completely against it if it decided to ban books about my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I wouldn't want to give an opinion and have to eat my words later.

Anonymous said...

I bet David O. is so glad to be relieved from the obligation of posting to the blog everyday. It allows him more time to prepare for trials and such. It's the same feeling I get whenever I close out an old case. Congrats, David.

Anonymous said...

The litigation will continue. The majority opinion was Judge Carnes (one of the most conservative judges on one of the most conservative circuits in the country) and a visiting district judge. Judge Wilson filed a strong and articulate dissent. That means the vote from 11th circuit judges was one to one. I don't think that the rest of the court will allow the opinion to be subjected to S. Ct. review without having a say in it. It will go en banc. The result from that is a toss up, but it is an issue that will most likely end up in the S. Ct.

BTW: 1) what kind of a person brags about carrying a knife to school like it was something positive "I remember the good old days when we could bring a deadly weapon to school."
2) anyone who thinks the book in question was banned because of factual inaccuracies is either naive, ignorant or less than truthful.