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Lawyer makes startling argument in Supreme Court hearing on FCC

A lawyer arguing that the FCC has gone overboard in its regulation of broadcast nudity and language directed the justices' attention to the bare buttocks of statues in the Supreme Court. The justices are considering whether FCC rules are inconsistent. 

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Not often can one watch a former solicitor general of the United States directing venerable Supreme Court justices to observe naked posteriors of the marble statues that stand sentinel at the highest court in the land.

“There’s a bare buttocks there,” Washington lawyer Seth Waxman advised the startled justices during his oral argument on Tuesday.

“And there’s a bare buttocks here,” he said, pivoting and pointing across the ornate courtroom.

The black-robed justices obliged the lawyer by following his extended finger to a sculptor’s rendition of gluteus maximus.

This was no voyeuristic dalliance. Mr. Waxman was hoping to convince the high court that the Federal Communications Commission had gone haywire in threatening to sanction broadcast television stations for the fleeting appearance of a naked body part or of a blurted expletive during prime-time television.

He told the justices that the FCC’s new beefed-up effort to stamp out televised indecency was so vague and ill-defined that it was difficult to know what was legal and what wasn’t.

Waxman, solicitor general under President Bill Clinton, said the FCC had even received complaints about television coverage of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The cameras had apparently panned past statues revealing breasts and buttocks.


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