Near v. Minnesota Case Brief

Summary of Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931)

Facts: Mr. Near published a newspaper in Minnesota called the Saturday Press, which reported certain questionable conduct by the local police and officials, and hinted at a perceived favoritism. An article claimed that the police were turning their heads to the criminal actions of a Jewish gangster. Minnesota enacted a statute that made the publication of malicious, scandalous and defamatory matters in the print media a public nuisance.

Issue(s): Whether a state law authorizing proceedings to restrain the publication of print media operates within the bounds of the liberty of press protected by the 1st and 14th

Holding: No. The law infringes upon the liberty of the press, guaranteed through the 14th and unconstitutionally restrains publication.

Procedure: Cnty Atty sought injunction. Ct permanently enjoined any further publications containing M, S, and D material and from further conducting nuisance under the title of The Saturday Press or any other title. MN S Ct Affirmed. USSCt Reversed.

Rule(s): 1st and 14th

Rationale: Liberty of Speech and Press are w/i the liberties protected by 1st and 14th from state invasion.

MN’s law is not aimed at curing individual or private wrongs, it is aimed at the distribution of scandalous material harmful to the public. But, it is not directed just at the distribution of the statements, but also the continued publication of charges against public officials.

Its object and effect is not punishment, but suppression of the offending newspaper or periodical. Suppression under this law is accomplished by enjoining publication. This law not only suppresses publication of the media, but it also effectively censors the publisher personally.

Restraint against publication is limited to exceptional cases such as when at war Govt may prevent disclosure of military information; or decency may be enforced against obscene publications; or where security of the community life requires protection against incitement to violent action. None of the exceptions are present here.

Liberty of the press has meant historically that publication has immunity from previous restraints or censorship.

DISSENT: MN law does not operate as a prior restraint on publication w/i the meaning of that phrase. It does not authorize administrative control in advance. There is no question that states have the power to denounce actions deemed a nuisance which threaten morals, peace, and good order.


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