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Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Comm’r of Revenue

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Constitutional Law Keyed to Sullivan

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Citation. 501 U.S. 663,111 S. Ct. 2513,115 L. Ed. 2d 586,1991 U.S.

Brief Fact Summary. A special tax that singled out certain publications protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) was held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court).

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Differential treatment, unless justified by some special characteristic of the press, suggests that the goal of regulation is related to suppression of expression and such a goal is presumptively unconstitutional. Differential taxation on the press places such a burden on the interests protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution that the Supreme Court cannot countenance such treatment unless the state asserts a counterbalancing interest of compelling importance, which it cannot achieve without differential taxation.

Facts. The Appellant, Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. (Appellant), was one of a few publications companies that was subject to Minnesota’s “use tax” that taxed the cost of paper and ink products consumed in the process of publication with some exemptions. In both 1974 and 1975, Appellant and a few other publishers paid a tax. Both years, Appellant bore roughly two-thirds of the total receipts from the use tax on ink and paper. Appellant instituted this action to seek a refund on the use taxes that it paid from January 1, 1974 to May 31, 1975. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the tax.

Issue. Whether must be struck down under the authority of [Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233 (1936)]?
Whether the select tax violates the First Amendment of the Constitution?
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