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On June 7, 1937, another landmark case emerged, which drastically altered the American legal system- Near v. Minnesota. The case was another step forward in the application of freedom of press, protection, and privacy for citizens. The issue at hand was whether a state could prevent the publication of scandalous or defamatory material. The state of Minnesota charged the publisher of the Saturday Press, Jay Near, with violating a state statute that prohibited the publication of “Malicious, scandalous, and defamatory” content about the public officials.
Background of the Case
Jay Near and Howard Guilford began publishing the Saturday Press in Minneapolis in 1927. The paper was highly critical of public officials, including the police, the mayor, and the governor. The content published in the journal was designed to point out corruption in the public office, especially in Minneapolis. The Saturday Press became famous for its exposés of corruption and scandal, in the process, angering the public officeholders.
Eventually, The Saturday Press was closed down under an injunction issued by the Government of Minnesota under the Public Nuisance Act. Petitioners Near, Guilford, and a number of other citizens of Minnesota filed suit in State court challenging the constitutionality of the statute under which the injunction had been issued. The Supreme Court of Minnesota sustained the Act as constitutional, and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Proceedings of the Case
On appeal, the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the Minnesota gag law. The Court heard oral arguments in the Anear case on February 10, 1931, in what was then referred to as Near v. Minnesota – since Howard Guilford was no longer a party to the case.
Outcomes of the Case
The Supreme Court issued its decision on June 7, 1937, ruling in favor of Near and holding that the Minnesota statute violated the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court held that the government may not impose prior restraints on publication without meeting the “heavy burden” of showing that the publication would cause “direct, immediate, and irreparable” harm. The Court stated that “censorship of publication is unconstitutional” whether imposed by the state or federal government.
Impact on the US Legal System
The Near v. Minnesota decision had a significant impact on the US legal system. Here are ten interesting facts about the case and its legacy:
- The Near v. Minnesota decision was a landmark First Amendment case that made clear that the government could not censor or punish speech, writing, or other forms of expression before they were published.
- The Near decision established the principle of prior restraint, which holds that the government may not prevent publication unless it meets a “heavy burden” of proving that the publication would cause “direct, immediate and irreparable” harm.
- The Near case determined that the government has the burden of proving that expression should be restricted instead of the speaker having to prove that their words should be protected.
- The Near decision was not the first time the U.S. Supreme Court had considered prior restraint, but it was the first time the Court applied the principle to state law under the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
- The Near decision helped to establish the press’s role as a watchdog of government and a check on the abuse of power.
- The Near decision has been used by courts to strike down other laws that would have restricted publication or distribution, such as libel laws and obscenity laws.
- The Near decision has been cited in some of the United States’ most significant free speech cases, including New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), which established the principle that government officials cannot win libel suits unless they can prove actual malice.
- The Near decision has been influential in other countries, where it has been cited as a precedent for protecting free expression in the press and other media.
- The Near decision has been criticized for not offering a clear standard for determining when prior restraint is acceptable and for leaving open the possibility that prior restraint could be used in certain limited circumstances.
- The Near decision remains an important precedent for protecting the freedom of speech and press, and its principles continue to be cited in contemporary legal cases and debates over free expression and government censorship.
In conclusion, the Near v. Minnesota case established an essential principle of freedom of speech and press, whether applied to state or federal law. It made clear that the government could not impose prior restraint on publication without proving that doing so would cause direct and immediate harm. The Near decision had a lasting impact on the protection of free expression in the United States, and its principles continue to inform legal cases and debates over the role of the press in a democracy today.
Near v. Minnesota: The Background
The case of Near v. Minnesota begins with a man named J.M. Near. This man was a resident of the state of Minnesota who published a newspaper called “The Saturday Press.” J.M. Near was arrested because of what was written in this newspaper. The content of “The Saturday Press” was thought to be racist, prejudiced, and hateful in general. Because this hateful speech was spread to the public in the form of a Newspaper, Near was taken into custody by the state police.
The state arrested the man because of a law called the Minnesota Gag Law of 1925. This law did not allow media that was considered to be hateful to be passed to the public. The reason this law was passed was to prevent public uprising and riots from occurring. The state passed this law because any information that is provided to the public cannot be hateful or racist.
In response to his arrest, J.M. Near appealed by stating that his publication was not criminal in nature and that his arrest violated his 1st Amendment rights. Near believed that his right to freedom of the press and his right to freedom of speech allowed him to distribute his newspaper; Near also believed that the content of his paper was not intended to spark violence.
Near v. Minnesota: The Case Profile
The case of Near v. Minnesota began on January 30th of 1930. The case of Near v. Minnesota was heard in the United States Supreme Court. In this case, J.M. Near—the owner and operator of the newspaper—was arrested for spreading hateful speech. In response to his arrest, near appealed by claiming the state of Minnesota had violated his 1st and 14th Amendment rights. Also, Near explained that his paper was expression was not illegal or criminal in nature.
Near v. Minnesota: The Verdict
The United States Supreme Court in the case of Near v. Minnesota ruled in favor of J.M. Near, by stating that the Minnesota Gag law was a direct violation of the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution. The ruling of Near v. Minnesota, distinguished between hateful speech and hateful actions. It was found that the newspaper was not an immediate danger nor did it present immediate harm to the population.
The 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution ensures that every American citizen may be granted the freedom to express themselves so long as their actions are done in a way that does not violate local or federal laws. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution allows a citizen of the nation to pursue ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’