Near v. State of Minnesota ex rel. Olson
283 U.S. 697 (1931)
Near published a newspaper
that routinely charged the local officials of Hennepin County with being
in league with gangsters.
Minnesota law (Session
Laws, Chapter 285) said (among other
things) that anyone who regularly published a "malicious, scandalous
and defamatory" newspaper was guilty of a nuisance and could be
fined or enjoined.
Based on the Minnesota law,
the local officials got an injunction against Near, forbidding him to
publish his paper.
Near appealed, arguing that
the Minnesota law was an unconstitutional prohibition on his freedom of
speech as guaranteed by the 1st
The Minnesota Supreme Court
affirmed. Near appealed.
The US Supreme Court reversed
and found the Minnesota law to be unconstitutional.
The US Supreme Court found
that the Minnesota law was a prior restraint on speech.
A prior restraint is something that prevents speech from
occurring, like forcing someone to get a license before printing a
Alternately, there are laws
that punish speech after it has occurred, like penalties for libel or
The difference is that if
there is an injunction, you can still be punished for violating the
injunction, even if it is later determined that the speech was protected
by the 1st Amendment.
Aka the Collateral Bar
The Court found that, except
for narrow exceptions, any law that censors or prohibits speech in
advance is an unconstitutional violation of the 1st
Alternately, a law that
punishes someone for the same speech after it has occurred may be
Basically, this case said that
any laws that could be considered prior restraint are almost certainly unconstitutional
violations of freedom of speech.
The three narrow exceptions
are; to protect national security, to safeguard a defendant's right to a
fair trial, and to seize assets of businesses convicted of obscenity law