Thursday, November 14, 2013

Near v. State of Minnesota ex rel. Olson case brief

Near v. State of Minnesota ex rel. Olson case brief summary
283 U.S. 697 (1931)

Defendant newspaper publisher sought review of the decision of the Supreme Court of Minnesota which upheld the validity of Minn. Stat. §§ 10123-1 to 10123-3, resulting in an injunction against the newspaper publisher from printing its newspaper based on claims that it was malicious, lewd, and defamatory.

The newspaper publisher argued that the statute unfairly denied it liberty of press because an injunction issued under the statute would restrain any future newspaper publication.


  • The Court found that the first section of the statute provided for the abatement of a malicious, scandalous, and defamatory newspaper against any person engaged in the business of regularly producing, publishing or circulating, having in possession, selling or giving away a newspaper. 
  • The Court held that the liberty of the press was safeguarded by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 
  • The right was not absolute, and the state could punish its abuse. 
  • The right to a free press could not be lost by exercising the right. 
  • The language of the statute at issue placed a prior restraint on the newspaper publisher to avoid language that might not be protected, thereby denying him the right of publication. 
  • This freedom, by virtue of its very reason for its existence, did not depend on proof of truth.

The court reversed the judgment of the Minnesota Supreme Court, holding that the statute as applied against the newspaper publisher infringed the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The court's decision focused on the statute and not on the truth of the charges contained in the periodical.

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