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Michigan Agrees Not to Enforce Minors' Access Law Until Hearing

Last week, Michigan's Solicitor General, Thomas Casey, came to an agreement with a coalition of booksellers, publishers, magazine distributors, and free expression groups not to enforce a minors' access law until a hearing on the coalition's request for a preliminary injunction. In exchange, the plaintiffs will not ask for an expedited schedule.

Earlier this month, six independent booksellers, the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression had joined publishers and magazine distributors in filing a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the new Michigan law that makes it illegal to allow a minor access to any material that is "harmful to minors." The groups contend the law places severe restrictions on the availability, display, and distribution of constitutionally protected, "non-obscene materials" to both adults and older minors, and is unconstitutionally overbroad and vague. The new law applies to any retail establishment that sells books, magazines, recordings, or other means of expression.

Federal Judge Declares Part of Patriot Act Unconstitutional

In a ruling handed down on Friday, January 23, in Los Angeles, a federal judge declared unconstitutional a section of the USA Patriot Act that bars giving expert advice or assistance to groups designated foreign terrorist organizations, the Associated Press reported. U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said the ban on providing "expert advice or assistance" is impermissibly vague, in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments, the article noted.

David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor and author, told AP that the judge's ruling is the first court decision to declare a part of the statute unconstitutional.

Bloomington Commission Calls for Repeal of Patriot Act

On January 28, the Bloomington (Illinois) Human Relations Commission, expressing the belief that the U.S.A. Patriot Act goes too far in curtailing civil liberties, voted unanimously to draft a resolution calling for the Act's repeal and to send the resolution to the Bloomington city council, central Illinois' The Pantagraph reported.

According to The Pantagraph, residents in attendance asked the commission to request that the city council see if it could find a way to prevent enforcement of the Patriot Act within the city limits.

Employees Buy Matthews Book Company

On January 29, Matthews Book Company, Matthews Medical Bookstores, McCoy Health Science Supply and College Bookstores of America, headquartered in Maryland Heights, Missouri, announced that the companies had been acquired from the former principal stockholder and chairman, John Marcus, by the employee owners of the respective companies, the management teams, and two associated investors.

According to a Matthews' press release, the completed buy-out will not affect company operations. All four companies will continue together as a vertically integrated group of companies, managed by the same senior management team.

Whitbread Book of the Year Announced

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Doubleday) has won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year Award.

The announcement was made on January 27 at an awards ceremony in London. Sir John Banham, Chairman of Whitbread PLC, presented the author with his award and £25,000 check. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is published in both an adult and a children's version, was a July/August 2003 Book Sense 76 Pick, and is the sixth novel to win the Whitbread Book of the Year since 1985.