Wisconsin high court to review challenge of obscenity law

Monday, May 4, 1998

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently decided to review the conviction of an adult bookstore for selling obscene videotapes to an undercover officer.

Kenosha County officials successfully prosecuted C & S Management, which operates the adult bookstore Crossroads, and obtained a jury conviction in January 1997.

However, bookstore officials contend the conviction should be set aside for several reasons, including a challenge that the obscenity law is unconstitutional.

After Crossroads appealed its conviction to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, that court sought the advice of the state Supreme Court.

In a procedure known as certification, the appeals court asked the Supreme Court to consider three questions in County of Kenosha v. C & S Management, Inc.:

  • Are the county and state obscenity laws both vague and overbroad in violation of the federal and Wisconsin constitutions?
  • Were jury instructions that expanded the federal obscenity standard erroneous?
  • What hurdles must an obscenity defendant overcome in order to obtain a hearing on a “selective prosecution” claim?

Rob Henak, the attorney representing the bookstore, said: “The fact that the Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted the case for review is definitely good because there are a lot of significant issues in this case, both from the trial aspect of this case to the constitutional validity of obscenity law.”

Henak said he “anticipates the court to make a larger statement about obscenity laws in general. Even though the challenge is to a county obscenity ordinance, the challenge would apply equally to the similar state statute.”

A call placed to the Kenosha County district attorney's office was not returned.

Henak said he does not expect the Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear arguments until September or October.