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Weekend Circuit: Sex Toys Banned, Gold Coins Seized

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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This is Weekend Circuit, a review of the serious and the silly in federal appellate courts in the last week.

FEC Loses Campaign Finance Case

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) lost its bid to regulate certain forms of super PAC communications Tuesday, after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of a former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee-aligned super PAC objecting to the regulations.

At issue in the litigation was an FEC rule restricting uses of a candidate’s name by unauthorized super PACs. A super PAC officially authorized by a candidate’s campaign may (and in some cases must) make use of the candidate’s name. A super PAC not officially authorized by a candidate, but which still supports said candidate, cannot use the candidate’s name in its own name or in many of its projects, including websites, social media accounts and official communiques. (RELATED: Huckabee Super PAC Beats FEC In Major Campaign Finance Case)

A three judge panel on the D.C. Circuit sided with a Huckabee super PAC, Pursuing America’s Greatness, placing a preliminary injunction on the name-restriction, finding the rule constituted a content-based restriction on speech. The court rejected an additional argument that the rule’s promulgation violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

Rare Gold Coins Seized From Family By Federal Government

Shortly after taking office, President Franklin Roosevelt issued a series of executive orders effectively banning private ownership of monetary gold. Pursuant to this policy, the U.S. Mint did not distribute almost half a million double eagle gold coins struck by the Philadelphia Mint in 1933. All were to be melted by 1937. One employee of the Mint, George McCann, absconded with several dozen coins at some point during his tenure as Mint cashier, and distributed by a Philadelphia merchant, Israel Swift. The Secret Service has pursued the coins since the 1940s.

One was nearly recovered in 1995; one of the 1933 double eagles was sold to Egypt’s King Farouk in 1944, who in turn sold the coin to English numismatist Stephen Fenton. The U.S. government attempted to seize the coin from Fenton in the mid-1990s, but eventually relented. The coin later sold at auction for over $7 million.

Several of Swift’s descendants — the Langbord family — found 10 of the rare coins in a safety deposit box in 2005, and turned them over to the Mint for authentication. The Mint confirmed their authenticity, but refused to return them to the Langbord’s. The family claimed the government action was an unconstitutional seizure of their property. The Third Circuit found for the government, ruling the government need not “seize” what was its own property.

Eleventh Circuit Upholds Ban On Sex Toys

The city of Sandy Springs, Ga., adopted a ban on the commercial distribution on obscene materials, including “any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.” The ordinance was challenged by Intersection, an adult bookstore, and two Sandy Springs residents; Marshall Henry, an artist who uses sex toys in his work, and Melissa Davenport, a woman with multiple sclerosis who uses sex toys to facilitate intimacy with her husband. They claimed the ordinance burdened their 14th Amendment right to engage in private, consensual sexual intimacy.

The Eleventh Circuit disagreed that such a right existed and dismissed the challenge.

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