Sherri Williams Denied <i>Cert</i> By U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was a single line among more than 1800 others for which certiorari was denied on the U.S. Supreme Court's Order sheet for Oct. 1, 2007:


What it meant was that retailer Sherri Williams' decade-long battle to have the sale of sex toys legalized in Alabama had reached a dead-end – at least as far as her issues already raised are concerned.

"There's one other opportunity to [change the law]," Williams said recently. "I would have to file a First Amendment challenge."

That challenge, according to Williams, would be based on an Eleventh Circuit decision from early last year, This That and the Other Gift and Tobacco v. Cobb County, Ga., where the court, in a decision at least partly apposite to its last decision in Williams' own case, ruled that This That and the Other could legally advertise "devices designed or marketed primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs" to its clientele who could legally purchase them ("medical practitioners" and "higher education faculty and students or [] persons with a valid prescription") despite Georgia's law banning all such advertising. The court therefore ruled that the ban on advertising of the devices could not properly be severed from the Georgia law and could not be saved simply by the district court limiting the statute's construction.

"[T]he prior panel in this case expressly determined that §16-12-80 banned all advertising of the sexual devices in issue, that this per se ban on advertising in §16-12-80 'is more extensive than necessary,' and that it violated the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights," The Eleventh Circuit wrote. "[T]he prior panel, at least by implication, determined that §16-12-80 could not be saved by giving the statute the more limiting construction used by the district court."

In the Eleventh Circuit's most recent decision in Sherri Williams v. Troy King, the court ruled that states have a "legitimate rational basis" for banning the advertising and sale of certain sexual devices in that such ban would preserve public morality, and indeed, the court's decision in the This That and the Other case even mentions that "this Court assumed that Georgia had a substantial governmental interest in promoting public morality and that the complete ban on advertising advanced that interest," but that the ban being "more extensive than necessary" trumped the morality interest. Alabama's law banning the advertising and sale of the devices almost mirrors the overturned Georgia statute ... and like Georgia's, Alabama's also lacks a severability provision, so if part of the statute is overturned, the entire statute – including its ban on sale of the devices – is thereby voided as well.

As this is written, Williams is attending the International Lingerie Show in Las Vegas, trying to raise funds for the continuation of her legal battle, and to publicize the upcoming film of her battle, tentatively titled "Pursuit of Happiness." She will be signing autographs this evening from 5-6 p.m. in the Amazon Room of the Rio Suites Hotel, and will host an "after-party" to "celebrate ... the end of a very long and costly legal battle" ... and possibly the beginning of a new one.