Law School Case Brief
Arcara v. Cloud Books, Inc. - 478 U.S. 697, 106 S. Ct. 3172 (1986)
Bookselling in an establishment used for prostitution does not confer First Amendment coverage to defeat a valid statute aimed at penalizing and terminating illegal uses of premises.
After an undercover investigation into reported solicitation of prostitution and other illicit sexual activities occurring on the premises of an adult bookstore, allegedly with the knowledge of the management, the local district attorney filed a civil action which sought in part to close the premises, invoking a New York statute which defined places of prostitution, lewdness, or assignation as public health nuisances and authorized the closure of such premises for one year. The owners of the bookstore moved for summary judgment on the closure claim, contending in part that closing the premises would impermissibly interfere with their First Amendment right to sell books there. The Supreme Court of New York, Special Term, denied the owners' motion, holding that a closure order would not be a prior restraint on constitutionally protected materials and that the owners' bookselling could not be used as a shield for illegal activity. The Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, affirmed, holding that closure would not be a prior restraint of protected speech, since the statute was being used to enjoin illegal conduct occurring on the premises and not to regulate the content of materials disseminated there. However, the Court of Appeals of New York modified the Appellate Division's order so as to grant partial summary judgment with regard to the closure claim, holding that closure of the bookstore was an unconstitutional restraint on the owners' First Amendment rights because it was not essential to further the purposes of the statute. The owners petitioned for certiorari review.
Was the closure of the bookstore an unconstitutional restraint on the owners' First Amendment rights?
The United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment did not bar closure of the bookstore because the sale of books in an establishment that was used for prostitution did not confer First Amendment coverage to defeat a valid statute which was aimed at penalizing and terminating illegal uses of premises.
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