New York Times v. United States
403 U.S. 713 (1971)
- The New York Times and the
Washington Post came into possession of classified documents related to
the Vietnam War (known as The Pentagon Papers). They decided to publish
- The Department of Defense sued
for an injunction under Espionage Act §793, claiming that the publication was a breach of national security.
- The newspapers argued that
the 1st Amendment and freedom
of speech gave them the right to print whatever they wanted.
- The Trial Courts found for the
newspapers and refused to grant injunctions. The Dept. of Defense
- The Appellate Court in DC
affirmed, but the Appellate Court in New York reversed and granted an
injunction. Everyone appealed.
- The US Supreme Court found for
- The US Supreme Court found
that the injunctions were 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 there
is a "heavy presumption" that any prior restraint law was a violation of the 1st
- See Near v. State of
Minnesota ex rel. Olson (283 U.S.
- In this case, the Court
found that the Dept. of Defense had not shown that publication was so
damaging that it justified prior restraint.
- The Court suggested that in
order to be constitutional, Dept. of Defense would have to show that the
publication would definitely cause a "grave and irreparable"