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AG's office backs off of claim of reversal by ACLU

Civil liberties group opposed indecent material bill in Legislature, in court

Posted: September 14, 2011 - 12:03am

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska is denying it ever supported before the Legislature a state law it later challenged in court.

Assistant Attorney General Annie Carpeneti on Monday told the House Judiciary Committee changes to the state’s laws aimed at protecting minors from indecent material had been endorsed by the civil liberties group as likely to pass constitutional review.

An act passed by the Alaska Legislature in 2010 aimed at stopping adults from providing minors with indecent material was overturned during the summer in federal court as unconstitutionally broad.

ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said his group had never supported the final bill, but did give approval to an anti-child pornography provision in an amendment to a related bill.

That provision was later included in Senate Bill 222, which eventually passed. It was not part of the legal challenge by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the ACLU which successfully overturned other provisions of the law.

“We were talking about a completely different provision of a completely different law,” he said. “We were not talking about the section that was at issue in the lawsuit.”

Carpeneti, after reviewing emails from 2010 in which Mittman urged staff at the Attorney General’s Office to stop claiming that the ACLU had supported bill, agreed the union hadn’t.

She said she was responsible for presenting incorrect information to the committee about the legislative history of the bill.

“I apologize for any misunderstanding,” she said. “I guess we read too much into a statement that apparently went to another issue,” she said.

Mittman said it was “incredible” to have a state agency misrepresent the ACLU’s testimony multiple times, and could harm its ability to work with the Legislature.

“We do a lot of work before the Legislature,” he said. “We’d never say its constitutional and then turn around and sue,” he said.

Carpeneti said the Attorney General is now working to draft a new bill that will pass constitutional muster, and continues to work cooperatively with the ACLU to accomplish the state’s goals without future challenges.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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