The ACLU of Arkansas filed a joint lawsuit against Arkansas’ newest censorship law, Act 372. The group challenging the law includes Fayetteville Public Library, Eureka Springs Carnegie Library, Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), various individual librarians and readers, Arkansas Library Association (ArLA), Advocates for All Arkansas Libraries (AAAL), Freedom to Read Foundation, Inc. (FTRF), several bookstores and publishing associations, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The lawsuit challenges sections 1 and 5 of Act 372, on the grounds that they violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Act 372 was signed into law on March 31, 2023 by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders amidst a nationwide increase in book bans and censorship. It’s scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1, 2023 unless blocked by a court. Libraries, librarians, booksellers, and readers are taking action now to safeguard their constitutional rights from potential irreversible harm.

The lawsuit calls for the court to strike down parts of Act 372 as unconstitutional. It argues the law must be blocked in order to protect the rights to distribute, access, and engage with books and media that are protected by the First Amendment. Act 372 attempts to revive an old Arkansas law, which was previously declared unconstitutional after a very similar challenge to that law by bookstores, librarians, authors and the ACLU of Arkansas in 2004.

Section 1 of Act 372 would criminalize librarians providing material considered “harmful to minors,” with a penalty of up to a year in jail. This would force libraries and bookstores to segregate or even remove any such potential materials to avoid the risk of prosecution. Section 5 would require public libraries to create a review process for any material considered “inappropriate” – an undefined and unclear term – by an individual. If the library didn’t move the challenged material to an adults-only section, the individual could appeal to their local government for a “final” decision that does not provide for judicial review before any action. 

Act 372 could lead Arkansas libraries to create “adult-only” areas and put librarians at risk of criminal charges if minors access those areas, or even to remove materials entirely if the library lacks space to house a separate “adult-only” area.  It would restrict libraries and bookstores from freely offering books and other items due to the threat of criminal prosecution.

The lawsuit also calls on the court to invalidate sections of Act 372, arguing the restrictions would infringe on First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech, including allowing librarians, booksellers, and publishers to distribute literature and media without fear of imprisonment.


Quattlebaum, Grooms and Tull; Fuqua Campbell, P.A., Dentons US LLP, Bettina Brownstein, Demoracy Forward Foundation

Date filed

June 2, 2023


U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas


Timothy L. Brooks



Case number