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Minneapolis Star and Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue

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Constitutional Law Keyed to Cohen

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Citation. 22 Ill.460 U.S. 575, 103 S. Ct. 1365, 75 L. Ed. 2d 295, 9 Med. L. Rptr. 1369 (1983)

Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioner, Minneapolis Star and Tribune Co. (Petitioner), brought suit alleging that a use tax on its printing supplies unconstitutionally violated its First Amendment freedom of the press.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. When a tax is directly aimed at the activities of a newspaper, the punitive effects it causes can be considered an abrogation of the paper’s First Amendment constitutional rights.

Facts. In 1971 the Minnesota legislature enacted a use tax on the supplies of newspapers. Later, the tax was amended to exempt the first $100,000 of supplies that were bought subject to this tax. The Petitioner, a large newspaper, bore 2/3 of the tax burden after the amendments and sought to have the tax declared unconstitutional. In its complaint, the Petitioner alleged that the tax on ink and paper used in publications was a violation of the freedom of press and equal protection clauses of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution (Constitution). The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the tax and the Petitioner brought its complaint to the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court), which granted certiorari.

Issue. This case considers whether a tax aimed at printing supplies is discriminatory against newspapers, in violation of their First Amendment freedom of the press.
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