PHOENIX - A federal judge on Wednesday
permanently barred Arizona from using a state law to prosecute an
online merchant who sells shirts that list names of thousands of troops
killed in Iraq.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake
did not strike down the 2007 law against selling products that use of
military casualties' names without families' permission. But he ruled
that using the law to prosecute Dan Frazier would violate the Flagstaff
man's First Amendment rights because his "Bush Lied - They Died" shirts
are "core political speech."
impossible to separate the political from the commercial aspects of
that display," Wake wrote. "For example, the state argues that Frazier
can sell his shirts without displaying the soldiers' names. But
Frazier's product is his message, and his customers' message."
Arizona's law was enacted with little debate by the Legislature, and Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas have enacted similar laws.
spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said Goddard's
office was reviewing the ruling and did not immediately know whether it
"I always knew the Constitution was on my side," Frazier said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Phillips, a Flagstaff lawyer who represented Phillips on behalf of the
ACLU, said it still could be possible to use the law to prosecute a
person in a case without political circumstance or motivations.
First Amendment concerns, Wake last September had issued a preliminary
injunction against enforcement of the law against Frazier while the
lawsuit was pending.
The ACLU is also
defending Frazier in a pending lawsuit filed against him in federal
court in Tennessee by a couple whose soldier son was killed in Iraq.
Robin and Michael Read of Greeneville, Tenn., have asked that their
case be expanded to cover more than 4,000 casualties and seek more than
$40 billion in damages.