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Professor Penny Venetis to Argue Aug. 9 Against Challenge to NJ’s Human Trafficking Prevention Act

August 08, 2013 – 

On Friday, August 9, 2013 at 10 am, Professor Penny Venetis, the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, will argue before Judge Dennis Cavanaugh of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey that the Court should not, under any circumstance, address constitutional issues raised by Backpage.com in its challenge of New Jersey’s anti-trafficking law.  

Professor Venetis filed a “friend of the court” amicus brief on behalf of 50 organizations that work to combat human trafficking, including service providers for trafficking victims.

Backpage.com, which brought in $34 million dollars last year alone from its adult services section, will argue that New Jersey’s anti-trafficking law violates its constitutional rights. Venetis will argue that the court should exercise constitutional restraint and address only the statutory issues in the case. All 50 State Attorneys General have asked Backpage.com to shut down its adult services section because it is used for human trafficking. Backpage has refused these requests, says Venetis, and “consciously chooses to run thinly veiled prostitution ads featuring sex with children.” Indeed, men and women have been convicted for placing ads for sex with minors and trafficked adults on Backpage.com. Competitors like Craigslist closed down their adult services section when it was linked to trafficking.

To date, Backpage.com has challenged every attempt to regulate it, citing the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA) as well as the Constitution. Professor Venetis has urged the Court to expose Backpage.com for what it is, “a corporation that puts profits ahead of human rights,” and not portray the business as a “Constitutional white knight.”

She will urge the Court to decide the matter under the CDA. “In this case, it is not appropriate for the court to address more issues than it needs to. “That would divert attention from Backpage.com’s insidious actions.”

Professor Venetis can be reached at 973-353-3240.