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Grosjean v. Am. Press Co. - 297 U.S. 233, 56 S. Ct. 444 (1936)

Rule:

La. Act No. 23 (1934) states that every person, firm, association, or corporation, domestic or foreign, engaged in the business of selling, or making any charge for, advertising or for advertisements, whether printed or published, or to be printed or published, in any newspaper, magazine, periodical or publication whatever having a circulation of more than 20,000 copies per week, or displayed and exhibited, or to be displayed and exhibited by means of moving pictures, in the state of Louisiana, shall, in addition to all other taxes and licenses levied and assessed in this state, pay a license tax for the privilege of engaging in such business in this state of two percent of the gross receipts of such business.

Facts:

Plaintiffs, nine publishers of newspapers in the State of Louisiana, brought an action to enjoin enforcement of La. Act No. 23 (1934), which imposed a tax on advertisements in publications that had a large circulation. The trial court entered a decree that permanently enjoined the collection of the tax on newspapers. Defendant Grosjean, the accounts supervisor for the state of Louisiana, then sought review.

Issue:

Does La. Act No. 23 (1934) violate the freedom of the press under the First Amendment?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court found that the tax violated the freedom of the press under the First Amendment. The Court determined that the newspaper publishers were all corporations and, as such, were "persons" within the meaning of the Equal Protection and the Due Process of Law Clauses. The Court found that the tax curtailed the amount of revenue from advertising and tended to restrict newspaper circulation.

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