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Judge Rules Against Use of Law to Disconnect Dial-A-Porn

December 17, 1987

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A state regulation that allows telephone companies to cut off lines used for illegal purposes cannot be used to disconnect dial-a-porn services, a federal judge has ruled.

″A state may not simply close down the forum of a provider of sexually explicit messages; instead, it must either prosecute vigorously under its obscenity laws or establish a prior-review permit system,″ U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima said in a ruling made public Wednesday.

The case was brought by Sable Communications of California Inc., the state’s largest operator of sexually explicit telephone serivces.

The firm challenged a regulation, known as Rule 31, that requires telephone companies to disconnect phone lines when it is believed they are being used for illegal purposes and present ″significant dangers″ to public health, safety and welfare.

Attorneys for Pacific Bell, which handles billing for most of the state’s telephone message services, argued a ruling against the regulation wasn’t needed because no attempts had been made to use it against dial-a-porn operators.

Tashima ruled that said Sable ″should not have to wait until it is actually prosecuted to challenge the statute.″

″Our initial reaction is one of dismay,″ Pacific Bell spokesman Lou Saviano said. ″We have said repeatedly that the filth that’s on some of these 976 numbers is absolutely repugnant to us, but it seems we’re frustrated at every legal attempt to get rid of it.″

Earlier this year, the state Public Utilities Commission ruled that telephone companies cannot disconnect phone services simply because the messages they offer are pornographic.

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