The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide if a child pornography law is unconstitutional because it lets people become criminals without knowing they are breaking the law.
The justices said they will study a lower court ruling that threw out the conviction of Los Angeles video store owner Rubin Gottesman for distributing sexually explicit videotapes of former pornography star Traci Lords that were made when she was only 15.
Under the federal child pornography law, anyone who makes, distributes or receives depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct is subject to as much as 15 years in prison.
But a divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law was flawed because it didn't require prosecutors to prove that distributors knew performers were under 18 at the time the materials were made.
The Clinton administration urged the court to uphold the law and reinstate Gottesman's conviction, arguing that the 9th Circuit ruling threatens government efforts to crack down on child pornography.
Arguments in the case aren't expected before fall.
In other matters, the court:
Declined to use the case of an Illinois woman to decide how far states may go to protect fetal life. On religious grounds the woman had refused a Caesarian section despite doctors' warnings her baby probably would be brain-damaged; she gave birth to an apparently healthy boy.
Let stand rulings that require New York to comply with federal labor law and pay its state police investigators for overtime work. Fifteen states had urged the court to reverse its landmark 1985 decision requiring state and local governments to comply with federal wage laws.
Turned down an appeal by Jimmy Hoffa's daughter, who is trying to get FBI files about the 1975 disappearance of the former Teamsters union president.
Ruled that Tennessee lawmakers must redraw election districts for the 99-member state House because district lines created in 1992 violate voters' equal-protection rights.
_ Information from AP, Reuters, Scripps Howard News Service and Washington Post was used in this report.