Citation. 283 U.S. 697, 51 S.Ct. 625, 75 L.Ed. 1357 (1931).
Brief Fact Summary.
Defendant challenged conviction under state public nuisance laws, arguing his conviction was unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Prior restraint of a news publications is unconstitutional but for an exceptional case such as wartime or incitement of violence.
Defendant published several articles in a newspaper which accused local officials of crimes, including gang activity. Plaintiff brought suit to stop the publications under Minnesota law, which provided a remedy to stop publication of malicious, scandalous, or defamatory articles. Defendant argued that the law constituted prior restraint in violation of its First Amendment.
Whether the Minnesota statute violates the First Amendment.
Yes. The Minnesota statute violates the First Amendment.
The statute denounces the things done as a nuisance on the ground, that threaten the morals, peace, and good order. There is no question as to the power of the state to denounce such transgressions. The judgement should be affirmed.
Our decision rests upon the operation and effect of the statute. If we cut through mere details of procedure, this statute allows public authorities to bring charges against owners and publishers. Unless the owner and publisher can satisfy the judge that the charges are true and are published with good motives, his newspaper is surprised. This is the very essence of censorship. Prior restraint is not unlimited, but its limitations are not applicable here. Judgement reversed.