Virginia Attorney, Congressional Hopeful File Doomed Lawsuit Against Barnes & Noble Over ‘Obscene’ Books

from the professional-moral-panicists dept

Two political figures determined to play to the base no matter what it costs them have filed lawsuits against book retailer Barnes & Noble, claiming (one specific Virginia Beach store, along with a Virginia Beach school) the company is marketing “obscene” books to kids.

It’s all incredibly stupid. Here’s Kelly Jensen with the details for Book Riot.

Last week, Virginia Beach (VA) schools voted to remove Gender Queer from shelves. It came after school board member Victoria Manning complained about it and several other books within the schools. After the initial review of the book and several others, Manning appealed the decision made to keep the book and after reconsideration, the book was pulled.

Now a Virginia lawyer is stepping in to take the decision further: he’s filing a suit against the school and against the Barnes & Noble store in Virginia Beach.

Virginia Beach attorney and State Delegate Tim Anderson, posted on Facebook that he and his client Tommy Altman–a right-wing republican running for Congress in the district housing Virginia Beach–saw the Virginia Beach Circuit Court find “probable cause that the books Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury are obscene to unrestricted viewing by minors.”

Altman (the congressional hopeful) is apparently “directing” this litigation. Tim Anderson (who may have a serious conflict of interest problem given his position as a State Delegate [the state equivalent to a Congressperson]) seems more than willing to take the First Amendment for a ride through the state’s court system, apparently hoping to define “obscenity” in a way no court at any level has defined obscenity in the past.

Anderson, who should definitely know better, is presenting some standard procedural efforts as a “victory” for people like him and his client, who somehow believe they can be the final arbiters of published obscenity.

Anderson’s Facebook post prematurely declares victory.

I am pleased to announce a major legal victory.

Today, the Virginia Beach Circuit Court has found probable cause that the books Gender Queer and a Court of Mist and Fury are obscene to unrestricted viewing by minors.

My client, Tommy Altman, has now directed my office to seek a restraining order against Barnes and Noble and Virginia Beach Schools to enjoin them from selling or loaning these books to minors without parent consent.

But that’s not what the documents posted by Anderson show. Those documents [embedded below] are nothing more than the court inviting the sued parties to present their arguments against Anderson’s and Altman’s ridiculous “obscenity” accusations.

What Anderson has posted is two Orders to Show Cause. These direct the sued parties to respond within 21 days of notice. While the Orders state that the court has found “probable cause” that the books are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,” this determination means very little until the court has reviewed the arguments of those being sued.

Literally anything can be called “probable cause” when it comes to court actions. That’s how prosecutors are able to get prosecutions initiated. They present one side of the case and the court determines whether those accusations — entirely divorced from any counterarguments or motions by the defense — is enough to proceed with fact-finding. That’s what is happening here and it very definitely isn’t the “victory” Anderson claims it is. Further fact finding may determine those initiating the action are full of shit. Declaring victory before the accused has even had a chance to respond is the height of disingenuousness.

As the Virginia Beach court dockets show (as of May 22, 2022 — see below), the only action happening right now has been generated by the agitators who seem to believe they’ll be able to sidestep the First Amendment to prevent a private company from offering certain books for sale. They seem to believe the same thing about the Virginia school targeted in this action, but that’s another set of standards completely — one that involves government-on-government action and is a bit more complicated than the virtually ensured loss heading their way in terms of what Barnes & Noble can stock in its stores.

The two Republican politicians are asking for a restraining order, which is the logical move to make. But most of this will remain on hold until the defendants have a chance to respond. Unless the judge is smoking the same partisan crack the plaintiffs are, the TRO requests will remain on ice until after the show cause orders are fulfilled.

It’s unclear whether this court was chosen for its unwillingness to respect the First Amendment or just because it was conveniently located. If this court rules in the plaintiffs’ favor and grants a restraining order, it will have to step over the still-cooling corpse of the First Amendment to do so. There’s nothing in these books that even approaches the standard for obscenity. And there’s a good chance these two agitators know it. Even if they lose, they win. They’ll be able to present their lawsuit dismissals as evidence the entire system is corrupt. It’s (almost) free advertising, especially when so many mainstream outlets are willing to present their allegations (while using the plaintiffs’ loaded language) without pointing out the extreme unlikelihood of their success.

Even if they win at this level, they’ll still lose. The First Amendment protects a vast amount of speech and nothing singled out by this pair of hatemongers even approaches the lowest of precedential bars erected by courts in this country.

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Comments on “Virginia Attorney, Congressional Hopeful File Doomed Lawsuit Against Barnes & Noble Over ‘Obscene’ Books”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That’s what I am thinking is part of it. A lot of has to be performative nonsense pandering to their base. The sad part is I don’t see how they can respect themselves if these are the people they want to represent… then again, they are politicians so they will throw anything like self respect, morals, and shame out the window to get elected.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It doesn’t matter if they respect themselves or if they actually believe the cause they’re fighting for. All that matters is that they stay in power. If that means performing and pandering to idiots, then so be it.

Why did you think FL governor DeSantis does what he does? A rational person wouldn’t pick a fight with the state’s largest employer (Disney), but he has to do something to be sure the right-wingers will keep supporting him.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:


I would like to know what these idiots are so afraid of?

Becoming irrelevant.

They become obsolete as society embraces diversity. When the sky doesn’t end up falling when you have interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, and everyone on equal footing as it should be, it makes their arbitrary rules useless.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:


When fear and hate of The Other are the basis for your power and authority you always need to keep fanning the flames, otherwise the people you’re conning might start to realize that those other people aren’t that different and their differences don’t actually do anything to those around them, quite unlike the people constantly telling them to be afraid.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: So many things

The Programming of being Male/female and NOT yourself.
Wondering if the Age of discovery for every person, means they are NOT what they were TOLD to be. (lets raise this dog, but treat it like a cat).

For some strange reasoning, its like the first time sailors discovered China and Japan, and the way SEX was treated there was a Marvel to behold. Very little stigma of Who you loved or made love to, as long as they were willing. Not to mention Rome, and some of the strange things there.

Then there is the strange fact from the bible, and Adam and Eve. There were NO rules. There was nothing forbidden except from That 1 single tree. Like putting a Germ in a Petery dish and watch it do its thing.
(the first porn?)

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


Their base no longer having an ‘other’ to direct all of their anger at.

Me being gay changes NOTHING in their lives, yet they demand I not be treated like a human & the right to decide if I am allowed any rights. The lie they get told is that if I’m allowed rights that they will have less rights & be forced to be more gay themselves. (rolls his eyes)

Women having abortions changes NOTHING in their lives, yet they are told that sex is only for procreation after marriage & that those who have sex outside of marriage are evil tramps who should be punished. (See also no tax money for tramps & their bastard children)

Brown people are being brought in to replace you and steal your jobs!! Pay no attention to what happened when a couple states went extra jackboot on brown people as a farmer stood in front of his rotting field because no brown farm workers (legal or not) wanted to be anywhere near the state & the few white folks who showed up for the job didn’t even finish a full day because work is hard & wages low. But the farmer kept smiling because the government would pay him for his lost crops.

These people believe seeing a tit will make men sex maniacs, so they scream about morality and obscenity while they are enjoying hardcore porn in their bedrooms (while demanding to control what others do in their bedrooms). They demand women dress more modestly so they don’t provoke a man to rape them, like men are incapable of self control.

Its about control over others, protecting what they think they have, and they are willing to punch themselves in the dick so long as it means the other got punched twice.

They did a study during covid that showed that once it was learned that it was hitting the black community harder there were people who decided to not mask or vaccinate…
We will put ourselves in harms way, just so you might be worse off.

The “War” on Christmas
Restoring America to a Christian nation
Black folk were better off on plantations

This is all based on the fear that anyone doing better means that they will end up doing worse.

Imagine the day we can finally find the right argument that dispels this bullshit & the look at their leaders who lined their pockets while promoting misery for those they claim to represent & care about.

Anonymous Coward says:

This isn't a suit against Barnes & Noble (Yet)

It’s legally incorrect to say that the petitioners have sued Barnes and Noble. The state statute in question allows a Virginia resident to use a civil action to sue the book as the “party in interest.” The proposed TRO won’t even be considered until the suit against the book is resolved in favor of finding the books obscene (a determination, as you noted, that hasn’t yet been made and awaits a hearing on the evidence & the law.

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