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Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton

Citation. 413 U.S. 49, 93 S.Ct. 2628, 37 L.Ed.2d 446 (1973).
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Citation. 413 U.S. 49, 93 S.Ct. 2628, 37 L.Ed.2d 446 (1973).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff filed an action against Defendants for showing obscene films, asking the judge to enjoin the films from being shown.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A state has a legitimate interest in protecting its citizens from material it believes to be obscene under the First and 14th Amendments.


Plaintiff filed civil complaints against the Defendants, alleging the Defendants were exhibiting to the public for paid admission two allegedly obscene films. Photos of the single entrance to the theaters were produced at trial, showing an inoffensive entrance and an ages 21+ sign.


Whether a state has a legitimate interest in prohibiting obscene materials.


Yes. A state has a legitimate interest in prohibiting obscene materials.


Justice Brennan

The First and 14th Amendments prohibit the state and federal governments from attempting wholly to suppress sexually oriented materials on the basis of their allegedly obscene contents.

Justice Douglas

I continue to disagree with the basic decision that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. I see no constitutional basis for fashioning a rule that makes a publisher, producer, bookseller, librarian, or movie house operator criminally responsible, when he fails to take affirmative steps to protect the consumer against offensive content.


We first reject the theory that pornographic films acquire constitutional immunity from state regulation simply because they are exhibited for consenting adults only.

Even assuming effective safeguards against exposure to juveniles and those passing by is possible, the state has an interest in the public’s quality of life and the total community environment. It is not for us to resolve empirical uncertainties underlying state legislation, save in the exceptional case where legislation plainly impinges on the Constitution. The fact that some human utterances or thoughts may be incidentally affected does not bar the state from acting to protect legitimate state interests.

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