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Any system of prior restraints of expression comes to the United States Supreme Court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity, and a party who seeks to have such a restraint upheld carries a heavy burden of showing justification.
The United States government sought injunctions against the publication by the New York Times of the contents of a classified study entitled "History of U. S. Decision-Making Process on Viet Nam Policy” and a publication from the Washington Post. Each District Court denied injunctive relief. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the judgment of the District Court for the District of Columbia, but the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit remanded the case to the District Court for the Southern District of New York for further hearings. The cases were elevated on certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Was the government able to justify the need for prior restraint?
The Court held that the government did not meet its burden of showing justification for the imposition of a prior restraint of expression. Furthermore, it stated that under the First Amendment, the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions, or prior restraints, and that the guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government was not justified.