Law School Case Brief
Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of the N.Y. State Crime Victims Bd. - 502 U.S. 105, 112 S. Ct. 501 (1991)
A statute is presumptively inconsistent with the U.S. Const. amend. I if it imposes a financial burden on speakers because of the content of their speech.
An amendment to New York's Son of Sam law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 632a(1) (McKinney 1982), required any entity that contracted with an accused or convicted person to submit a copy of the contract and to turn over any income under that contract to respondent, N.Y. State Crime Victims Board (Board). Petitioner publisher produced a book pursuant to a contract with an admitted organized crime figure (figure). The book, which became a bestseller, described the crime figure's participation in a variety of crimes. In 1986, the Board became aware of the book, after reviewing the book and the applicable contract, the Board determined that the book was covered by § 632-a. The Board ordered petitioner publisher to turn over all current and future money payable to the figure. Petitioner then brought suit under 42 U. S. C. § 1983, seeking a declaration that the law violated the First Amendment and an injunction barring the law's enforcement. The District Court found the law to be consistent with the Amendment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Petitioner appealed.
Was the Son of Sam Law, as amended, inconsistent with the First Amendment?
The Court held that the Son of Sam Law was inconsistent with the First Amendment because regardless of whether the First Amendment "speaker" was an author or the publisher, the statute singled out speech on a particular subject for a financial burden that the state placed on no other speech and no other income. The Court averred that although the state had a compelling interest in insuring that victims of crime were compensated by those who harmed them, in insuring that criminals did not profit from their crimes, and in using the profits of criminals' crimes to compensate victims, and although it could be assumed that the income escrowed under the statute represented the fruits of crime, the state had little if any interest in limiting such victim compensation to the proceeds of the criminal's speech about the crime. Moreover, the Court held that the statute was not narrowly tailored but rather was significantly overinclusive as a means of insuring victim compensation from the profits of crime, in that the statute reached a wide range of literature that did not enable a criminal to profit from a crime while a victim remained uncompensated.
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