Mainstream Loudoun v. Loudoun County Library
(Blocking Software Case)
|This page was last updated on April 22, 1999.
Mainstream Loudoun, et. al. v. Board of Trustees of the Loudoun County Public
Libraries, et. al. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia,
at Alexandria, Virginia. Case Number CV 97-2049.
Nature of the Case: Residents of Loudoun County, Virginia, and website
operators and authors whose web pages may have been blocked, asked the federal court to
prevent the county public library from using Internet blocking software on public access
computers in the library. All plaintiffs alleged that use of the software violated
their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The plaintiffs won, and the library
decided not to appeal.
Loudoun (P.O. Box 4013, Leesburg, VA, 20177), and its individual members, who are
residents of Loudoun County, Virginia. Attorneys: Elliot Mincberg and Lawrence Ottinger, People for the American Way (PFAW), 202-467-4999; and Robert Corn-Revere, Hogan & Hartson,
Washington, DC, 202-637-5600. Intervening Plaintiffs are seven website operators or
authors whose web pages were once blocked by X-STOP software on the Loudoun Library
computers. Attorneys: Ann Beeson, American Civil Liberties
Union Foundation (ACLU), 125 Broad Street, New York, NY, 10004, 212-549-2601.
Defendants: Board of Trustees of the Loudoun County Public Libraries,
its members, and the director of the library. Attorneys: Kenneth Bass and Damon
Wright, Venable Baetjer & Howard, 2010 Corporate Ridge, Suite 400, McLean, Virginia,
22102, 703-760-1600, firstname.lastname@example.org. Log On Data
Corp, maker of X-STOP, is not a party to the case.
Facts: Loudoun County is located in far northern Virginia. It
includes both farms, and posh exurbs of Washington DC. It is the site of, or very close
to, many major computer and Internet companies, including American Online, BTG, Caci,
CyberCash, FastComm, Netrix, PSINet, and UUNet. The County runs a public library system
with six branches. On October 20, 1997, the Board of Directors of the library
adopted a Policy regarding blocking access to porn sites on the
Internet from its computers. It then had installed on its ten Internet connected
computers the Library Edition of the X-STOP blocking software, produced by Log On Data
Corp. On December 22, the Loudoun County resident plaintiffs filed suit. The
ACLU soon moved to intervene on behalf of
seven website operators or authors whose web pages are alleged to have been blocked by
X-STOP software. The initial papers filed with the Court by the parties' attorneys reflect
different factual allegations regarding the nature of the software, and what sites are
Issues: This is a case of first impression, that is, one presenting an
issue that the courts have not previously decided. The main issues are whether public
libraries violate the First Amendment freedom of speech rights of library users or web
publishers, by installing blocking software on computer terminals in the libraries. The
Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of
speech...". Also at issue is whether the "Good Samaritan Clause" of Telecom
Act of 1996, 47 USC 230(c)(2)(A) and (3), offers the
Library a valid defense to the Plaintiffs' claims. The case may have far reaching effects
on the ability of libraries, schools, state universities, and government offices to
install blocking or filtering software on their computers.
Status: The Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss and Motion for
Summary Judgment on February 2, 1998. Plaintiffs also filed cross motions for summary
judgment. Judge Brinkema, the trial court judge, denied most of the Defendants' motions in
her April 7 Opinion. She denied the 47 USC 230 immunity claim,
ruled that the contitutional standard of "strict scrutiny" would be applied to
the Library's actions in this case, and ruled that there were facts in dispute that
prevented her from ruling the summary judgment motion. The parties then proceeded to
conduct extensive pretrial discovery. The Judge decided the remaining issues in the November 23, 1998 Memorandum Opinion. She granted summary judgment
in favor of Plaintiffs, and barred the library from enforcing its blocking software
policy. On April 1, 1999, the library board decided not to appeal. (The delay was a result
of the library board wanting to know what attorneys fees Judge Brinkema would award.)
Chronology with Links to Pleadings, Stories and Other Files
- 10/20/97, Board of Directors of Loudoun County Public Libraries adopts Policy on Internet Sexual
Harassment which provides for installing blocking software on library computers.
- 12/22/97, People for the American Way files original Complaint
in U.S. District Court on behalf of several Loudoun County residents.
- 12/22/97, Press Release of People for the American Way issued.
- 2/2/98, Defendants file Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State A Claim or in the
Alternative for Summary Judgment, Memorandum in Support.
- 2/2/98, Defendant's file Motion to Dismiss Individual Defendants, and Memorandum in Support.
- 2/2/98, Declaration
of Cindy Timmerman in support of Defendant's motions filed.
- 2/6/98, ACLU files Motion to Intervene, Proposed Complaint,
and Brief in Support, on behalf of publishers of blocked websites.
- 2/6/98, Press Release of ACLU issued 2/6/98.
- Story: ACLU Requests to Intervene, 2/6/98.
- 2/27/98. Hearing of various motions before Judge Brinkema. (Story.)
- 4/7/98, Court denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and grants Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Individual Defendants. (Cite as 2 F.Supp.2d 783 (E.D. Va. 1998).) See also:
Memorandum Opinion and Order.
Tech Law Journal Story.
- 9/3/98, Intervening Plaintiffs (ACLU) file Motion for Summary Judgment. See, Memorandum in Support.
- 9/4/98, Plaintiffs (PFAW) file Motion for Summary Judgment. See:
Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment.
PFAW Press Release.
Tech Law Journal Story.
- 9/4/98, Defendants file Motion for Summary Judgment. (Memorandum in Support | Story.)
- 9/18/98, Defendants file Opposition Brief.
- 9/25/98, Court hears oral argument on Motions for Summary Judgment. (Story.)
- 10/2/98, Court issues statement that the case will be decided on cross Motions for
Summary Judgment, and supporting evidence and pleadings. (Oct. 14 trial date
- 11/23/98, Court issues Order (granting Plaintiffs' and Intervenors' motions for summary
judgment) and Memorandum Opinion (46 page explanation). See:
Tech Law Journal Story.
- 12/1/98, Loudoun County Public Library Board of Trustees holds public meeting to hear
public testimony and to decide how to proceed with this lawsuit, and whether to revise its
Internet use policy. See:
Prepared statement of Jeri McGiverin
(Mainstream Loudoun) at Board of Trustees meeting.
Prepared statement of Linda Chavez at
Board of Trustees meeting.
Prepared statement of Charles Rust-Tierney
(ACLU) at Board of Trustees meeting.
Loudoun County Public Library Internet Use
Policy adopted at the meeting.
Tech Law Journal Story.
- 12/10/98, Court orders that "this Court's order disposing of (Plaintiffs' attorney)
fee applications will be deemed the final order for the purpose of determining the time
periods for appeal," thus extending the Library's deadline for appealing.
- 12/22/98, Court orders that attorneys' fees petitions be filed by January 22, 1999.
- 12/23/98, Library Board files Notice of Appeal.
- 1/22/99. ACLU files Motion for Attorneys Fees (($187,890.73).
- 1/22/99. PFAW files Motion for Attorneys Fees ($300,710.37).
- 2/8/99. Loudoun Library Board files opposition to motions for
- 4/1/99. Court awards Plaintiffs a total of $106,918.25. in attorneys fees and costs. See
Judge Brinkema's Memorandum Opinion.
Tech Law Journal story.
- 4/19/99. Loudoun Library Board voted not to appeal. (Story.)
Tech Law Journal
- ACLU Requests to Intervene in Loudoun Case,
- Court Holds Hearing in Loudoun Case,
- Judge Strikes Down Law In Urofsky Case,
- Brinkema Rules on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss,
- Plaintiffs File Motion for Summary Judgment,
- Loudoun Library Files Motion for Summary
- Judge Hears Arguments on Motions for Summary
- Judge Cancels Trial in Net Filtering Case,
- Judge Bans Public Libraries from Filtering
Out Net Porn, 11/23/98.
- Loudoun Library Board Votes to Preserve
Right to Appeal, 12/2/98.
- ACLU and PFAW Seek $488,601.10 in
Attorneys Fees, 2/10/99.
- Billing Records Reveal Details of Loudoun
- Appeal Still Possible in Loudoun Case,
- Judge Awards $106,918.25 in Loudoun Library
- Library Board Decided Not to Appeal
Filtering Decision, 4/21/99.
- Plaintiffs: Mainstream Loudoun et. al.
- Mainstream Loudoun website.
- Attorneys: Elliot Mincberg and Lawrence Ottinger, People
for the American Way, 202-467-4999.
- Attorneys: Robert Corn-Revere and Ronald Wiltsie, Hogan & Hartson, Columbia Square,
555 13th St. NW, Washington, DC, 20004-1109, 202-637-5600.
- Intervening Plaintiffs.
- ACLU Cyber Liberties Page.
- Attorneys: Ann Beeson and Chrisopher Hansen, ACLU
Foundation, 125 Broad Street, New York, NY, 10004, 212-549-2601, fax 212-549-2651. Beeson@aclu.org.
- Attorney: Mary Bauer, ACLU of Virginia, 6 North 6th St. # 400, Richmond, VA, 23219-2419.
- Defendants: Loudoun County Libraries, et. al.
- Blocking Software.
- Relevant Law.
- U.S. District Court.
- U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria, Albert V. Bryan
Courthouse, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA, 22314-5798. This court has no website.
- Judge Leonnie M. Brinkema has been assigned to decide pretrial motions. Alexandria
Courthouse, 6th Floor, 703-299-2116. (Brinkema
Biography.) Secretary: Charlotte Rexroad.
- Office of the Clerk of the Court, 703-299-2177.