Massachusetts v. Oakes, No. 87-1651

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtO'CONNOR, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which BLACKMUN
Citation109 S.Ct. 2633,105 L.Ed.2d 493,491 U.S. 576
Docket NumberNo. 87-1651
Decision Date21 June 1989
PartiesMASSACHUSETTS, Petitioner v. Douglas OAKES

491 U.S. 576
109 S.Ct. 2633
105 L.Ed.2d 493
MASSACHUSETTS, Petitioner

v.

Douglas OAKES.

No. 87-1651.
Argued Jan. 17, 1989.
Decided June 21, 1989.
Syllabus

In 1984, respondent Oakes took color photographs of his partially nude and physically mature 14-year-old stepdaughter, L.S. He was indicted, tried, and convicted of violating a Massachusetts statute (§ 29A) prohibiting adults from posing or exhibiting minors "in a state of nudity" for purposes of visual representation or reproduction in any publication, motion picture, photograph, or picture. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed the conviction. After holding that Oakes' posing of L.S. was speech for First Amendment purposes, the court struck down the statute as substantially overbroad under the First Amendment without addressing whether § 29A could be constitutionally applied to Oakes. It concluded that § 29A criminalized conduct that virtually every person would regard as lawful, such as the taking of family photographs of nude infants. Subsequently, § 29A was amended to add a "lascivious intent" requirement to the "nudity" portion of the statute and to eliminate exemptions contained in the prior version.

Held: The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded.

401 Mass. 602, 518 N.E.2d 836, vacated and remanded.

Justice O'CONNOR, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, Justice WHITE, and Justice KENNEDY, concluded that:

1. As a practical matter, the intervening amendment of the statute moots the overbreadth question in this case. Thus, overbreadth analysis is inappropriate under Bigelow v. Virginia, 421 U.S. 809, 95 S.Ct. 2222, 44 L.Ed.2d 600. The overbreadth doctrine—an exception to the general rule that a person to whom a statute may be constitutionally applied can no longer challenge the statute on the ground that it may be unconstitutionally applied to others—is designed to prevent the chilling of protected expression, which the former version of § 29A cannot do since it has been repealed. That overbreadth was discussed and rejected as a mode of analysis in Bigelow—where there was no need to comment on that issue since the defendant's conviction was reversed on the narrower and alternative ground that the statute was unconstitutional as applied—is evidence that the application of Bigelow does not depend on whether other questions presented will be answered adversely to the defendant. It is not constitutionally offensive to decline to reach Oakes' challenge, since an overbroad statute is not void ab initio but merely voidable. Since the special

Page 577

concern that animates the overbreadth doctrine is no longer present, the doctrine's benefits need not be extended to a defendant whose conduct is not protected. Moreover, the amendment of a state statute pending appeal to eliminate overbreadth is not different, in terms of applying the new law to past conduct, from a state appellate court adopting a limiting construction of a statute to cure overbreadth. This Court has long held in the latter situation that the statute, as construed, may be applied to conduct occurring before the limiting construction. Pp. 581-584.

2. Since the sole issue before this Court has become moot, and a live dispute remains as to whether the former version of § 29A can constitutionally be applied to Oakes, this case is remanded for a determination of that remaining live issue. Pp. 584-585.

Justice SCALIA, joined by Justice BRENNAN, Justice MARSHALL, Justice BLACKMUN, and Justice STEVENS, concluded that the subsequent amendment of § 29A to eliminate the basis for the overbreadth challenge does not eliminate the overbreadth defense. The overbreadth doctrine serves to protect constitutionally legitimate speech not only after an offending statute is enacted, but also when a legislature is contemplating what sort of statute to enact. If no conviction of constitutionally proscribable conduct would be lost, so long as the offending statute was narrowed before the final appeal, legislatures would have significantly reduced incentive to stay within constitutional bounds in the first place. Moreover, while this Court has the power to adopt a rule of law which says that the defendant's acts were lawful because the statute that sought to prohibit them was overbroad and therefore invalid, it does not have the power to pursue the policy underlying that rule by conditioning the defendant's criminal liability on whether, by the time his last appeal is exhausted, letting him challenge the statute might serve to eliminate any First Amendment "chill." Pp. 585-588.

Justice SCALIA, joined by Justice BLACKMUN, also concluded that the case should be remanded for the court below to dispose of the as-applied challenge, since the statute is not impermissibly overbroad. The scope of this statute has already been validated except as to nonpornographic depictions, New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747, 102 S.Ct. 3348, 73 L.Ed.2d 1113, and has been narrowed further by statutory exemptions, and any possibly unconstitutional application of it—for example, to artistic depictions not otherwise exempt or to family photographs—is insubstantial judged in relation to the statute's plainly legitimate sweep. Pp. 588-590.

O'CONNOR, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, and in which BRENNAN,

Page 578

MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined as to Part I, post, p. 585. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 590.

James M. Shannon, Atty. Gen., Com. of Mass., Judy G. Zeprun, Madelyn F. Wessel, Asst. Attys. Gen., Boston, Mass., for petitioner.

Richard J. Vita, Boston, Mass., for respondent.

Justice O'CONNOR announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, Justice WHITE, and Justice KENNEDY join.

This case involves an overbreadth challenge to a Massachusetts criminal statute generally prohibiting adults from posing or exhibiting nude minors for purposes of visual representation or reproduction in any book, magazine, pamphlet, motion picture, photograph, or picture.

I

The statute at issue in this case, Mass.Gen.Laws c. 272, § 29A (1986), was enacted in 1982.1 It provides as follows:

"Whoever with knowledge that a person is a child under eighteen years of age, or whoever while in posses-

Page 579

sion of such facts that he should have reason to know that such person is a child under eighteen years of age hires, coerces, solicits or entices, employs, procures, uses, causes, encourages, or knowingly permits such child to pose or be exhibited in a state of nudity or to participate or engage in any live performance or in any act that depicts, describes or represents sexual conduct for purpose of visual representation or reproduction in any book, magazine, pamphlet, motion picture film, photograph, or picture shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of not less than ten nor more than twenty years, or by a fine of not less than ten thousand dollars nor more than fifty thousand dollars, or by both such a fine and imprisonment.

"It shall be a defense in any prosecution pursuant to this section that such visual representation or reproduction of any posture or exhibition in a state of nudity was produced, processed, published, printed or manufactured for a bona fide scientific or medical purpose, or for an educational or cultural purpose for a bona fide school, museum or library.

"As used in this section, the term 'performance' shall mean any play, dance or exhibit shown or presented to an audience of one or more persons."

Another statute, Mass.Gen.Laws c. 272, § 31 (1986), defines "nudity" as

"uncovered or less than opaquely covered post-pubertal human genitals, pubic areas, the post-pubertal human female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola, or the covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state. For purposes of this definition, a female breast is considered uncovered if the nipple or the nipple or areola only are covered. In the case of pre-pubertal persons nudity shall mean uncovered or less than opaquely covered pre-pubertal human genitals or pubic area."

Page 580

In 1984, respondent Douglas Oakes took approximately 10 color photographs of his partially nude and physically mature 14-year-old stepdaughter, L.S., who at the time was attending modeling school. Tr. 22-30. The photographs depict L.S. sitting, lying, and reclining on top of a bar, clad only in a red and white striped bikini panty and a red scarf. The scarf does not cover L.S.'s breasts, which are fully exposed in all the photographs. The dissent below described the photographs as "sexually provocative photographs of the type frequently found in magazines displayed by storekeepers in sealed cellophane wrappers." 401 Mass. 602, 606, 518 N.E.2d 836, 838 (1988). See also Brief for Law and Humanities Institute as Amicus Curiae 47 (referring to the photographs as "pin-up" art).

Oakes was indicted and tried for violating § 29A. The jury returned a general verdict of guilty, and Oakes was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. Because the jury was not instructed on the "sexual conduct" portion of § 29A, Tr. 101-104, its verdict rested on a finding that Oakes "hire[d], coerce[d], solicit[ed] or entice[d], employ[ed], procure[d], use[d], cause[d], encourage[d], or knowingly permit[ted]" L.S. to "pose or be exhibited in a state of nudity." The acts proscribed by § 29A are listed disjunctively, so it is impossible to ascertain which of those acts the jury concluded Oakes had committed. The jury was instructed on the exemptions set forth in § 29A, Tr. 104, but its guilty verdict indicates that the exemptions were found to be inapplicable.

A divided Massachusetts Supreme...

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152 practice notes
  • United States v. Brune, No. 12–3322.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • 19 Septiembre 2014
    ...applied cannot challenge the statute on the grounds that it may be unconstitutionally applied to others.” Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 581, 109 S.Ct. 2633, 105 L.Ed.2d 493 (1989).6 Although it is not at issue in this case, the statute makes clear that the government must also prove......
  • Osborne v. Ohio, No. 88-5986
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 18 Abril 1990
    ...construed and not as it was originally written—does not conflict with the holding in this case. Nor does Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 109 S.Ct. 2633, 105 L.Ed.2d 493—in which five Justices agreed in a separate opinion that a state legislature could not cure a potential overbreadth ......
  • Santillo v. Com., Record No. 0496-98-4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 17 Agosto 1999
    ...45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070 (1925). 3. An exception to this rule is in the area of First Amendment challenges. See Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 109 S.Ct. 2633, 105 L.Ed.2d 493 (1989); Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 611-12, 93 S.Ct. 2908, 37 L.Ed.2d 830 (1973). The United Stat......
  • Brooks v. N.C. Dept. of Correction, No. 5:96-HC-752-BR2.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • 25 Septiembre 1997
    ...who made the same comments. (Tr., at 94.) 22. As an example of the difficulty of this inquiry, the author cites Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 109 S.Ct. 2633, 105 L.Ed.2d 493 (1989), in which Justices Brennan and Scalia agree that a certain statute is overbroad but reach opposite con......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
151 cases
  • United States v. Brune, No. 12–3322.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • 19 Septiembre 2014
    ...applied cannot challenge the statute on the grounds that it may be unconstitutionally applied to others.” Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 581, 109 S.Ct. 2633, 105 L.Ed.2d 493 (1989).6 Although it is not at issue in this case, the statute makes clear that the government must also prove......
  • Osborne v. Ohio, No. 88-5986
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 18 Abril 1990
    ...construed and not as it was originally written—does not conflict with the holding in this case. Nor does Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 109 S.Ct. 2633, 105 L.Ed.2d 493—in which five Justices agreed in a separate opinion that a state legislature could not cure a potential overbreadth ......
  • Santillo v. Com., Record No. 0496-98-4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 17 Agosto 1999
    ...45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070 (1925). 3. An exception to this rule is in the area of First Amendment challenges. See Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 109 S.Ct. 2633, 105 L.Ed.2d 493 (1989); Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 611-12, 93 S.Ct. 2908, 37 L.Ed.2d 830 (1973). The United Stat......
  • Brooks v. N.C. Dept. of Correction, No. 5:96-HC-752-BR2.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • 25 Septiembre 1997
    ...who made the same comments. (Tr., at 94.) 22. As an example of the difficulty of this inquiry, the author cites Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 109 S.Ct. 2633, 105 L.Ed.2d 493 (1989), in which Justices Brennan and Scalia agree that a certain statute is overbroad but reach opposite con......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • MANUFACTURING SOVEREIGN STATE MOOTNESS.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 1, October 2021
    • 1 Octubre 2021
    ...(53.) See id. at 1532-33. (54.) Id. at 1526 (per curiam). (55.) See id. (56.) 431 U.S. 119, 129 (1977); see also Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576, 576 (1989) (holding that an amendment to the challenged child pornography statute mooted the (57.) 455 U.S. 283, 289 (1982). (58.) 508 U.S. ......

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