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Organized crime kingpin Sammy “The Bull” Gravano is asking the Supreme Court for help in recovering more than $300,000 in royalties he earned from Peter Maas’ 1997 best-selling book about him, Underboss. While the Supreme Court may not sympathize with Gravano’s financial plight, his lawyers are hoping his First Amendment argument will catch the Court’s attention. His case, Gravano v. Arizona, No. 03-651, is one of dozens of cases on the agenda for the Court’s Jan. 23 private conference, at which it will consider whether to grant review. The Court also will meet the week before, on Jan. 16. Gravano claims that by seizing his book royalties along with other assets as punishment for operating a drug ring, the state of Arizona violated his free speech rights. Allowing the forfeiture to stand, argues lawyer Larry Hammond of Osborn Maledon in Phoenix, would establish a rule that could be applied to a “wide variety” of legitimate books about criminal activity by authors including Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, and Jean Genet. “While the government faces no limitation in broadcasting its own satisfaction with its enforcement of anti-racketeering laws, a person who has been the object of such enforcement actions, and wishes to communicate her view that these laws are unjust or unjustly applied, may do so only if prepared to forfeit to the government any compensation for her efforts,” wrote Hammond in his brief. Hammond says forfeiture laws similar to Arizona’s are in force in 29 other states and in the federal code, creating a substantial “financial disincentive” to potential authors. The Supreme Court has spoken in this area before, ruling in the 1991 case Simon & Schuster Inc. v. Members of the New York State Crime Victims Board that so-called Son of Sam laws violate the First Amendment by seizing book proceeds for the purpose of compensating victims of the authors’ crimes. The New York law at issue required that book or movie profits be held in escrow and turned over to victims who won money damages in civil actions against the author. Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard told the Court that the Arizona Court of Appeals, in upholding the forfeiture of Gravano’s royalties, “correctly followed” the 1991 Supreme Court precedent. The law used by Arizona, unlike Son of Sam laws, is aimed at all assets that resulted from racketeering activities, not just those from expressive works, the state argues. As a result, the law is “content-neutral” and does not violate the First Amendment, according to Arizona. The law’s valid purposes of removing the economic incentive for crime and compensating victims are “unrelated to the content of any expression.” But Gravano’s brief counters that the law is not content-neutral, since it targets only the profits from expressive works related to his racketeering activities. The sweep of the law, says Hammond, will result in self-censorship by authors and publishers, “harming not only themselves but society as a whole, which is deprived of an uninhibited marketplace of ideas.” Gravano moved to Arizona in 1992 as a protected federal witness, renamed “Jimmy Moran,” after testifying against New York Mafia boss John Gotti Sr. Gravano had been linked to numerous murders and other crimes, but because of his cooperation, he served only five years in prison. But Gravano eventually returned to crime and became the leader of an Arizona drug operation that specialized in selling Ecstasy. He was arrested in 2000, convicted in 2002, and is serving a 19-year prison sentence. Jan. 16 conference:Yamamoto v. Bank of New York, No. 03-659. Loan rescission claims under Truth in Lending Act. • Scottsdale Unified School District No. 48 v. Hills, No. 03-693. Whether a public school district must allow distribution of religious brochures if it also allows other outside written materials to be distributed to students. • Tucker v. Fearn, No. 03-718. Damages for wrongful death of minor child under maritime law. Jan. 23 conference:Circuit City Stores v. Ingle, No. 03-604. State-law pre-emption under Federal Arbitration Act. • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Kenyon, No. 03-687. Whether state law product liability litigation is pre-empted by congressional policy on production and sale of cigarettes. • California Franchise Tax Board v. Farmer Bros. Co., No. 03-776. Whether a California corporate tax deduction that gives favored treatment to dividend income received from certain in-state corporations violates the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. This column seeks to identify cases on the Supreme Court’s conference agenda that are leading candidates for Supreme Court review or that raise significant national issues. Thomas Goldstein of Washington, D.C.’s Goldstein & Howe selects these cases from the many petitions filed based on several factors, including whether lower courts have split on the issues presented. He does not otherwise participate in the preparation of this column.

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