Washington -- A federal court ruling in Wilmington, Del.,
paved the way for the Supreme Court to decide whether a 1996 channel-scrambling law
violates the First Amendment rights of adult programmer Playboy Entertainment Group Inc.
The three-judge panel, which has held the statute
unconstitutional, agreed March 18 to dismiss motions filed by the Department of Justice,
effectively moving the case to the Supreme Court.
"Obviously, we are very pleased that the three-judge
court agreed with us that the litigation at this level has not ended. We look forward to
having the rest of the case resolved as quickly as possible," Playboy attorney Robert
The DOJ has already appealed the case to the Supreme Court,
and it must make another key filing April 19. Playboy is expected to file a motion May 19
asking the high court to affirm the lower court's holding.
The three-judge panel, in a one-page ruling, said it did
not have jurisdiction to adjudicate the DOJ's request because the DOJ had already filed a
notice of appeal with the Supreme Court.
The DOJ had asked the three-judge panel to allow the
federal government to continue enforcing the scrambling law against adult networks that
were not parties in the case.
It also asked the court to ensure that cable subscribers
were aware of free channel-blocking devices.