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The battle of tattered cover

Cowboy hat By Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer - Sat., 6/1/02
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Joyce Meskis is a small-business owner who runs the vibrantly independent Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, Colorado. But Joyce is interested in more than selling books, for she is imbued with the freedom-loving spirit that books embody —and, when pushed, she’s not hesitant to stand up for this freedom and the constitutional rights of readers.

A couple of years ago, drug authorities hit Joyce with a search warrant, claiming that suspects bought “how-to” drug-making books at the Tattered Cover, so the cops wanted her sales records. Asserting that it’s nobody else’s business what books a customer buys, she defied the order and landed in a protracted court battle.

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the ACLU rallied to the cause, as did scores of bookstores, publishers, authors, and readers. They lost in a lower court, but kept fighting—and, in April, their perseverance paid off when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled 6-0 in favor of the Tattered Cover’s right to protect the privacy of its readers.

“The beauty of living in this country is to be able to pick and choose, peruse, weigh and debate. And I am not going to interrogate you on what you read,” Joyce said after the victory.

That’s the American spirit at its best. If we don’t stand up for our rights, the Powers That Be will snatch them away from us.

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Filed Under: Civil rights