Sheriff is Ordered to Stop Asking Credit Card Companies to Cease Business with Backpage

By: Jeff Coy

Photo By: Edkohler on Flickr

ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center tweeted an article about a federal appeals court ordering Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Thomas Dart to stop telling credit card companies to not do business with Backpage.com.

Backpage sued the Cook County Sheriff’s Department after the department successfully pressed MasterCard and Visa to stop processing credit card transactions with the website.Dart and other lawmakers have complained the website has had problems of sex trafficking women and minors. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals gave a court order after granting an appeal by Backpage. The ruling stated Dart was violating the website’s First Amendment rights. Lawyers for Sheriff Dart argued the officer had a First Amendment right to express any opinion to credit card companies.

The court order also demands Dart to send a copy of the order to MasterCard, Visa and any other companies that received letters from Dart in regards to Backpage.com.

The website’s lawyer, Bob Corn-Revere, said: “This issue of trying to put pressure on intermediaries to regulate speech that is disfavored by the government has broad applications, and if Sheriff Dart is not enjoined would be used as a tactic across the board.”

Judge Richard Posner said: “He can use the office of the sheriff to express any antipathy that he has to anything? So you’re saying there is no limit? He can express his opinion on his office stationery on any subject that occurs to him. What if he doesn’t like pets? He doesn’t think people should have animals in their house. He can suggest to everyone they euthanize their pets?”

Backpage could be seen as a “middle man” of any illegal transactions. Though illegal content may be displayed on the backpage, the websites intentions are to only be used to place business ads for constomers to find. This is sort of a bad example but if people on facebook were discussing an illegal transaction, could the social media site be held responsible? Law enforcement were attempting to cut a branch of communication off by now allowing credit card companies to make purchases on the website.

Sources:

Law.cornell.edu

ABA Journal

USA Today

 

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