What’s Happening with Woodhull Freedom Foundation vs. the United States?

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Our attorneys filed our Merits Brief with the DC Circuit Court 

I’m glad you asked what’s happening! Let me begin by telling you that we’re prepared to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court. FOSTA violates important constitutional rights and renders sex workers more vulnerable to violence and victimization. We are committed to doing whatever we can to challenge this dangerous law.

We at Woodhull pledge to continue to keep you informed about the progress of the suit. Please follow us on Twitter @woodhullSFA for continued updates.

Next Steps in Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al. vs. the United States of America:

On June 28, 2018, our attorneys filed our complaint in federal district court. As part of our filing, we requested a preliminary injunction and appeared in court asking for a preliminary injunction to stop the law while the case was pending. A hearing was held on July 19, 2018, on, the injunction request.

The district court ultimately decided that none of the plaintiffs have the legal right to sue to have this law overturned, and dismissed the case. In our legal system, the parties must have a sufficient stake in the outcome of the case to challenge a law, referred to as having “standing.” Here, the court decided that none of the plaintiffs are likely to be prosecuted for violating FOSTA, and therefore lacked standing. Importantly, the court did not rule on whether FOSTA was constitutional, simply that we were not the right people to bring the challenge.  We disagree with the ruling and believe that the existence of the law has caused direct harm by chilling our speech, which is generally enough to tell the court that a law violates our rights under the First Amendment. So we are taking the case to the next level, the D.C. Circuit Court. We know from history, and from the impact of FOSTA so far, that laws are used against minority and disadvantaged groups and communities all the time – and we’re not backing down.

The next step is for the parties to file their briefs in the Circuit Court. Our brief was filed late last night, February 13, 2019. See this page for a copy of the brief.  By February 20, 2019, other parties supporting our position (called amici or “friends of the court”) can file separate briefs, describing why we should have standing in this case. The government will then have until March 15, 2019, to file their Answer Brief, responding to our arguments. Additional amici can then file briefs supporting the government.

The Circuit Court will then set a date for Oral Argument on the case, where our attorneys will have a chance to address the panel of 3 appellate judges and make their arguments for the court to decide the case. We are asking the court to issue the preliminary injunction and put a halt to future enforcement of FOSTA, meaning no one can be arrested and charged until the case has been decided. There is no specific timetable for a ruling, but we are hopeful it comes down in the coming months.

Our legal team has been in touch with a number of First Amendment organizations and our allies in the sex worker communities. We expect a substantial show of support for our case, given the devastating impact of the law thus far.

While we await a ruling on this important case, we will use the time to continue to bring together those who are impacted for discussion and further collaboration. Future legal proceedings may require additional evidence and testimony from willing members of the sex worker community.

We’ll be having these discussions at Woodhull’s 10th annual Sexual Freedom Summit, August 15-18, 2018, and look forward to hearing more from impacted communities, like our 2019 Summit partner, SWOP-USA, as well as our team of attorneys, all experts in the legal profession.

We urge everyone to continue in the fight against FOSTA – donate to support the suit, donate to support the work of Woodhull, send articles like this to your Congressional representatives, raise awareness about community advocacy like DecrimNow, and join us at the Summit.

We’ll continue to keep you up-to-date via emails, blog posts, and social media. Don’t forget to check here tomorrow to read the brief in support of our right to sue to stop FOSTA. We hope to see you in August!

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