White challenges both his conviction and the statute on the grounds that banning the art of tattooing violates his constitutionally protected right of free expression. Center Files Brief on Behalf of Tattoo Artist

The Center for Individual Freedom has filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Ronald P. White's petition asking the Court to hear his case.

White is a tattoo artist convicted under a South Carolina statute banning and criminalizing the art of tattooing. Under the restriction, tattooing is only permissible when medically necessary, and then only a licensed physician or surgeon may engage in the practice. White continues to challenge both his conviction and the statute on the grounds that banning the art of tattooing violates his constitutionally protected right of free expression. He is represented in the U.S. Supreme Court by Kenneth W. Starr, Daryl Joseffer, and Ryan Phair of Kirkland & Ellis and Jared S. Newman of Newman & McDougall.

The Center's brief argues that freedom of expression protected under the First Amendment extends to all artistic expression without regard to message conveyed or medium employed by the artist. It also stresses that restrictions burdening constitutionally protected expression are not exempt from scrutiny under the First Amendment simply because they further the State's interest in public health and safety. Moreover, the brief points out that forty-eight other states have been able to protect the health and safety of their citizens without banning and criminalizing the art of tattooing.

As written in the Center's brief, "If painting and verse, and even an offensive slogan emblazoned on a jacket, are 'unquestionably shielded' by the First Amendment's freedom of expression, then so, too, must the tattoo art created by Petitioner Ronald P. White. After all, the only difference between the Petitioner's art and the 'unquestionably shielded' painting, verse, and slogan is the medium employed by the artist. [White] has simply chosen to execute his art on the skin of individuals who commission the art rather than on canvas or paper. . . . Therefore, this Court's intervention is necessary to establish that the First Amendment's protection of an individual's right of artistic expression extends beyond particularized messages conveyed via traditional media."

To download the Center’s brief, click here.

August 20, 2002
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