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Adult Video Association v. William Barr Attorney General of United States

filed: March 12, 1992.

ADULT VIDEO ASSOCIATION; DOE, INC.; ROE, INC.; PAUL POE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
WILLIAM BARR,*FN* ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CV-87-7894-RSWL. Ronald S.W. Lew, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Thomas Tang, Stephen Reinhardt and Charles Wiggins, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Tang.

Author: Tang

TANG, Circuit Judge:

Adult Video Association, Doe, Inc., Roe, Inc., and Paul Poe filed an action seeking a declaration that the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act's ("RICO") criminal provisions are facially unconstitutional when enforced against obscenity offenses. The district court granted the government's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The plaintiffs appeal only the district court's dismissal of their First Amendment challenge to RICO's criminal provisions. We affirm in part and remand in part.

BACKGROUND

RICO, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968, imposes severe penalties on any person convicted of engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity. The penalties include prison terms of up to twenty years, substantial fines, and forfeiture of

(1) any interest the [defendant] has acquired or maintained in violation of RICO;

(2) any -

(A) interest in;

(B) security of;

(C) claim against; or

(D) property or contractual right of any kind affording a source of influence over;

any enterprise which the [defendant] has established, operated, controlled, conducted, or participated in the conduct of in violation of RICO; and

(3) any property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds which the [defendant] obtained, directly or indirectly, from racketeering activity or unlawful debt collection in violation of RICO.

18 U.S.C. § 1963(a). Forfeiture is mandatory upon conviction. Id.

The statute also permits the government to apply to a district court for a pre-trial order to preserve assets for forfeiture. 18 U.S.C. § 1963(d). Courts may authorize pre-trial seizures of assets, issue restraining orders and injunctions, require the execution of performance bonds, and "take any other action to preserve the availability of property . . . for forfeiture." 18 U.S.C. § 1963(d)(1).

A defendant is guilty of engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity if that person commits two or more acts of "racketeering activity." 18 U.S.C. § 1961(5). The statute includes a laundry list of racketeering activities, any one of which may serve as a predicate offense in a pattern of racketeering. 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1). In 1984, Congress added to the list of predicate offenses "any act . . . dealing in obscene matter . . . which is chargeable under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year" and "any act which is indictable under" the federal obscenity laws, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1461-1465. 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1); see also Pub. L. No. 98-473, 98 Stat. 1837 (1984).

The appellants, Adult Video Association, Doe, Inc., Roe, Inc., and Paul Poe (collectively, "Adult Video") are a producer, distributor, retailer, and consumer of sexually explicit videotapes, respectively. They brought an action against the Attorney General of the United States challenging RICO's provisions as facially unconstitutional under the First, Fifth, and Eighth amendments to the federal Constitution.*fn1

Adult Video's complaint asserts that RICO's authorization of pre-trial seizures and its comprehensive post-trial forfeiture provisions amount to unconstitutional prior restraints on speech. Adult Video also argues that the severe penalties RICO authorizes for as few as two obscenity violations, when combined with the inherent uncertainty of deciding what qualifies as obscenity, chills constitutionally protected erotic and sexually explicit speech. In support of its position, Adult Video cites the decision of Roe, Inc. not to rent or sell any sexually explicit videotapes and Roe, Inc.'s inability to obtain any non-explicit, erotic videotapes due to distributors' liability concerns. Adult Video also points to Paul Poe's asserted inability to rent or to buy sexually explicit videos for home viewing, because video stores fear that they will become the object of a racketeering prosecution.

The government moved under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss Adult Video's action for failure to state a claim. In August 1989, the district court granted the motion with respect to every claim except the count challenging RICO's civil remedies. The court rejected Adult Video's argument that a First Amendment chill emanates from a combination of (i) the inherent ambiguities in the definition of obscenity, (ii) the lax scienter requirement for obscenity, and (iii) the severe punishments RICO authorizes.*fn2 The court characterized Adult Video's argument as little more than "an artful attempt to bypass" the Supreme Court's definition of obscenity in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 37 L. Ed. 2d 419, 93 S. Ct. 2607 (1973).

With respect to Adult Video's prior restraint argument, the district court held that RICO imposed "subsequent punishment," rather than a prior restraint, on defendants duly convicted of obscenity violations. Relying on Arcara v. Cloud Books, Inc., 478 U.S. 697, 92 L. Ed. 2d 568, 106 S. Ct. 3172 (1986), the district court concluded that such subsequent punishment did not run afoul of the First Amendment.

Finally, the district court rejected the argument that section 1963(d)'s authorization of pre-trial seizures made the provision facially unconstitutional. The court acknowledged that the Supreme Court's opinion in Fort Wayne Books, Inc. v. Indiana, 489 U.S. 46, 103 L. Ed. 2d 34, 109 S. Ct. 916 (1989), effectively foreclosed pre-trial seizures of allegedly obscene materials under RICO. The district court nonetheless found facial invalidation inappropriate because section 1963(d) authorizes a variety of other pre-trial measures the facial constitutionality of which Adult Video does not question.

In January 1990, Adult Video filed a motion for voluntary dismissal of its only remaining claim (the constitutionality of RICO's civil remedies). The district court granted the motion and entered a final judgment on January 25, 1990.

Adult Video subsequently filed a timely notice of ...


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