This page summarizes both the trial court and appellate court proceedings.
Nature of the Case. A parent of a child who uses Internet access computers at a public library seeks to compel the library to install blocking software on children's computers within the library. The parent lost in the trial court, and has appealed. The parent lost again in the California Court of Appeal.
Plaintiff. Kathleen R. is an anonymous resident of Livermore, California, and the mother of a minor who uses the Livermore Public Libraries. Attorney: Michael Millen, 119 Calle Marguerita, Suite 100, Los Gatos, CA, 95032; 408-871-0777; MikeMillen@aol.com.
Defendants. City of Livermore, and 10 Doe defendants. Attorney: Dan Sodergren, Assistant City Attorney, City of Livermore, 3600 Robertson Park Road, Livermore, California, 94550; 925-373-5120.
Facts. The City of Livermore is a community of about 70,000 about 45 minutes east of San Francisco in Alameda County. It is home to ranches, wineries, and the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory weapons research facility run by the federal government and the University of California. Also, some high tech workers and businesses from the nearby Silicon Valley are moving to Livermore because property is more affordable there. The City operates a public library system which has computers with Internet access. These computers do not have blocking software, and children's access to computers is not restricted. The plaintiff, Kathleen R., is the mother of a child who used these computers to download pornographic pictures. The City of Livermore subsequently refused her request to install blocking software on computers that children would use to access the Internet. This lawsuit followed.
Issues. The original Complaint against the City of Livermore asserts three legal theories. First, the Plaintiff alleges that the use of public funds to pay for children's access to pornography constitutes a "waste of public funds" under Section 526 or the California Code of Civil Procedure. Second, the Plaintiff alleges that the library's policy constitutes a "nuisance." Third, the plaintiff pleads "premises liability." Defendants are likely to argue that freedom of speech requires that Internet access not be blocked. The Plaintiff's Amended Complaint adds a fourth theory: substantive due process. Also, the Defendant plead that Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 bars the action.
Status. Judge Hernandez granted the Defendant's demurrer to the original complaint, but allowed the Plaintiffs to amend the complaint, which they did. On January 14, he sustained the demurrer to the amended complaint, and dismissed the suit. On the first demurrer, he never addressed the three underlying claims. Rather, he ruled that Section 230 bars the suit.
Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal with the First District Court of Appeal (California's intermediate appellate court) on about March 11, 1999. The parties agreed to a very extended briefing schedule. Oral argument was held on January 23, 2001.
The City of Livermore is supported by two amicus curaie briefs. One was filed by the law firm of Cooley Godward on behalf of the California State Association of Counties, 48 California cities, and two independent library boards. The other was filed by the ACLU Northern California on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way.
The Court of Appeal issued its opinion upholding the trial court on March 6, 2001.
Chronology with Links to Pleading and other Materials
Tech Law Journal Stories.