As any publication that is in violation of any provision of the Espionage Act (Act) is nonmailable. Under the Act there are four provisions that establish matter as nonmailable. Title 1, § 3, provides as unmailable any matter, when the United States is at war, containing false statements willfully intended to interfere with the operation or success of the militar or to promote the success of its enemies, and matter willfully intended to obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States. Freedom of the press and of speech concerns were inappropriate as neither the Act nor defendant's actions prohibited the publication of plaintiff's views.
Plaintiff, Masses Publishing Co., published monthly issues of a magazine which contained anti-war sentiments. Defendant, the postmaster of New York City, refused to mail the August issue of the magazine in question as it allegedly violated the the Espionage Act, which prohibited statements and acts intended to undermine military operations. Thereafter, the plaintiff sought and obtained an injunction restraining the defendant from treating the August issue of the magazine as non-mailable. According to the plaintiff, if the magazines should be excluded from the mails, its business will practically be ruined. Furthermore, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s refusal to mail the magazine constituted a violation of the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights. A preliminary injunction enjoining defendant was issued and the defendant appealed the case.
Was the issuance of an injunction against the postmaster proper?
The Court agreed with the postmaster’s determination that plaintiff's magazine, which incited others to resist the conscription laws, violated the Espionage Act and was therefore unmailable. The Espionage Act (Act), Act of June 15, 1917, Title 12 §§ 1 and 2, declared as unmailable any item that advocated or urged treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any United States law. Title 1 § 3, which prohibited statements intended to interfere with the operation of the military, forbade anyone from willfully causing insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, or from willfully obstructing the United States recruiting or enlistment service. In the case at bar, the Court ruled that the postmaster exercised his discretion in refusing to mail plaintiff’s magazine. As he was not clearly wrong, his decision was conclusive. Moreover, the Court noted that U.S. Const. amend. I freedom of the press and of speech concerns were inapposite as neither the Act nor defendant's actions prohibited the publication of plaintiff's views.