The distribution of books and magazines is protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments from governmental suppression, whether criminal or civil, in personam or in rem, where the publications are attacked as obscene but (1) there is no claim that the applicable statute reflects a specific and limited state concern for juveniles; (2) there is no suggestion of an assault upon individual privacy by publication in a manner so obtrusive as to make it impossible for an unwilling individual to avoid exposure to it; (3) there is no evidence of "pandering" by purveying textual or graphic matter openly advertised to appeal to the erotic interest of customers; (4) the publications are not hard-core pornography; and (5) they are not obscene under the coalescing three elements requiring for a determination of obscenity that (a) the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeal to a prurient interest in sex, (b) the material be patently offensive because it affronts contemporary community standards relating to the description or representation of sexual matters, and (c) the material be utterly without redeeming social value.
In the New York and Kentucky cases, petitioners, a newsstand clerk and a bookstore owner, were convicted for selling allegedly obscene books and magazines in violation of N.Y. Pen. Law §1141(1) and Ky. Rev. Stat. § 436.100, respectively. In the Arkansas case, the courts, in a civil proceeding under Ark. Stat. Ann. §§ 41-2713-41-2728, declared certain issues of various magazines to be obscene, enjoined their distribution, and ordered their surrender and destruction. On certiorari, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the judgments.
Was the distribution of the allegedly obscene books and magazines protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments from governmental suppression?
The distribution of the publications in each of the cases was protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments from governmental suppression, whether criminal or civil, in personam or in rem.