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Alexander v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioner, Alexander (Petitioner), owned adult bookstores throughout the state. He was convicted of selling obscene pornographic tapes and racketeering. The Respondent, the United States (Respondent), ordered him to forfeit all of his businesses.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A prior restraint is an administrative or judicial order forbidding certain communications before they occur.

    Facts. The Petitioner owned 13 adult bookstores throughout Minnesota. He was convicted on 17 obscenity counts and 3 RICO violations. The obscenity convictions were based on the sale of 4 magazines and 3 videotapes. He was sentence to 6 years in prison, fined $100,000 and ordered to pay the cost of trial and incarceration for the obscenity counts. In addition, he was ordered to forfeit his businesses and nearly $9 million in profits.

    Issue. Is the court order to shut down the adult bookstores an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech?

    Held. No. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) rejected the argument that the sentence violated Petitioner’s First Amendment constitutional rights, but remanded for reconsideration under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
    The items were seized as punishment not a prior restraint.

    Points of Law - for Law School Success

    The Fourteenth Amendment requires that regulation by the States of obscenity conform to procedures that will ensure against the curtailment of constitutionally protected expression, which is often separated from obscenity only by a dim and uncertain line.

    View Full Point of Law
    Dissent. This is an authorization to suppress disfavored speech.

    Discussion. The majority emphasizes the definition of a prior restraint to distinguish it from a subsequent judgment. The stores were shut down because they were related to past wrongdoings. The Petitioner is free to start another adult bookstore chain once he serves his sentence. So, this action is not a content-based restraint.


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