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Justice Robert Benham of the Georgia Supreme Court received Valentine’s Day legal advice from a county prosecutor who was defending a state law that criminalizes “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent” suggestions made by telephone. Hearing arguments over whether the law violates free speech rights, Benham had wondered aloud about the fate of millions of Georgians who might use the telephone on Monday to call their spouses and make lascivious suggestions. The phone is off limits for such X-rated talk, even to one’s spouse, said Inez Grant, Forsyth County assistant solicitor, because “the state can regulate its public utilities,” including telephone lines. “You need to know,” Grant told Benham later, that a lascivious telephone call to your wife could bring prosecution. Benham thought a moment and deadpanned, “I’ll pick her up and talk to her in person.” Benham’s colleagues, the lawyers and the courtroom audience of about 20 erupted in laughter — putting a giggly ending on the case, McKenzie v. Georgia, No. S05A0298. At issue was the misdemeanor conviction of Anthony McKenzie for collect telephone calls he made to a 14-year-old girl while he was an inmate at the Forsyth County Detention Center. Then 17, McKenzie was serving time for a probation violation when he made the calls, which were recorded by the jail. R. Parker McFarland Jr., McKenzie’s lawyer, told the justices they should strike down the law under which McKenzie was convicted, O.C.G.A. � 46-5-21 (a) (1). The 1968 law was based on a similar federal law that has been amended nine times and now restricts only child pornography or obscene communications transmitted with the intent to harass or with knowledge that the recipient is a minor, according to an amicus brief submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union. Most of the court members appeared highly skeptical of the law’s constitutionality. When Grant first brought up her argument that the state could regulate telephone speech because it regulates telephones, Justice Carol W. Hunstein exclaimed, “What?”

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