WFF Wins Appeal in Federal Court

January 24, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that plaintiffs in the Woodhull Freedom Foundation’s (WFF’s) lawsuit against the United States have standing to pursue claims. This decision guarantees sex worker rights advocates their day in court. The suit brought by Woodhull, Human Rights Watch, The Internet Archive, and two other plaintiffs is a constitutional challenge to the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which chills speech and harms sex workers. Since President Donald Trump signed FOSTA into law on April 11, 2018, sex workers have been erased from the platforms they previously used to schedule and screen their clients, share resources, and advocate for their safety and health.

A lower court dismissed the lawsuit last year, but the plaintiffs appealed. DSW’s Melissa Broudo and J. Leigh Brantly authored an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit, which was filed by DSW before the oral arguments in October of last year. The brief was instrumental in the appeal being granted, reviving Woodhull’s challenge to FOSTA. The U.S. Court of Appeals has ordered that the constitutional challenge be sent back to U.S. District Court for a ruling on the merits of the case. DSW will continue to support their motion.

U.S. Court of Appeals found that two of the four plaintiffs have adequate standing. Through her website Rate That Rescue, Alex Andrews established an Article III injury-in-fact because she has alleged intention to engage in conduct with constitutional interest. U.S. Court of Appeals found that Eric Koszyk, a licensed massage therapist living in Portland, Oregon, had also established adequate Article III standing. The passage of FOSTA and the shutdown of Craigslist “Therapeutic Services” section directly negatively impacted Koszyk’s ability to find clients and make a living. Significantly, the courts also found that if FOSTA were repealed, Mr. Koszyk’s predicament would be remedied.

“We are thrilled with the victory in this incredibly important case,” said Ricci Levy, President and CEO of Woodhull. “We are committed to fighting this unconstitutional and dangerous law to the end.” The Woodhull team and their allies have worked tirelessly on this critical case.

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey authored an op-ed on the implications that this case has for the health and safety of vulnerable communities everywhere. The decision can be accessed here — Monitor WFF’s Lawsuit Against FOSTA page for further updates.

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey is pictured with Woodhull’s legal team at the oral arguments last year. (Photo: DSW, 2019)

Activist and organizer Alex Andrews, of Rate That Rescue and SWOP Behind Bars, is one of the plaintiffs that the Appellate Court found to have injury-in-fact standing. Ms. Andrews (far left) is pictured here with (L to R) J. Leigh Brantly, Melissa Broudo, and Kaytlin Bailey of DSW and author and activist Dan Savage of the podcast Savage Love. (Photo: DSW, 2019)