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Luke Records v. Navarro - 960 F.2d 134 (11th Cir. 1992)

Rule:

For purposes of the Miller test for obscenity, the basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. A work cannot be held obscene unless each element of the test has been evaluated independently and all three have been met. 

Facts:

Plaintiffs Luther Campbell, David Hobbs, Mark Ross, and Charles Wongwon comprised the musical group "2 Live Crew," which recorded the song, "As Nasty As They Wanna Be." In response to efforts by allegedly taken by defendant Nick Navarro, the Sheriff of Broward County, Florida, to discourage record stores from selling "As Nasty As They Wanna Be," plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking to enjoin Navarro from interfering further with the sale of the recording. In addition to injunctive relief, plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the recording was not obscene under Fla.Stat. § 847.011 and the Constitution of the United States. The district court granted the injunction, finding that Navarro's actions were an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech. However, the district court found that "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" was obscene under Miller v. California, and it thus denied plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief. Plaintiffs appealed, contending that the district court misapplied the test for determining obscenity.

Issue:

Did the district court err in applying the test for determining obscenity in its ruling that the musical recording "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" was obscene under Fla. Stat. ch. § 847.011 and the United States Constitution?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The appellate court reversed the district court's judgment. The court ruled that, assuming that music was not simply a sham attempt to protect obscene material, the basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be when applying the Miller test were: (a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. A work cannot be held obscene unless each element of the test has been evaluated independently and all three have been met. The court found that the record was insufficient to determine whether the work lacked serious artistic, scientific, literary or political value, and the trial judge could not find that the musical work had no artistic value by simply by listening to the music.

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