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Case Digest on Near v. Minnesota

Government actions that seek to prevent the publication of materials before they are distributed are presumptively unconstitutional and are violative of the First Amendment's protection of freedom of the press.

This is the doctrine established in the U.S. landmark case of Near v. Minnesota in 1931. Check out this two-minute case digest by Audio Law Reader.🎧📚



Jay Near, the publisher of The Saturday Press, published a newspaper that targeted local officials with sensational and defamatory content, accusing them of corruption and criminal activities.

The officials sought an injunction from the Court to prevent Near from publishing his newspaper. They used the Minnesota Public Nuisance Law as the basis for seeking this injunction, as it allowed authorities to label certain publications as "malicious, scandalous, and defamatory" and to seek injunctions to prevent their publication.

The state court granted the injunction, effectively restraining Near from publishing his newspaper. Hence, Near appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Minnesota Public Nuisance Law. His legal team argued that the law violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of the press.


Whether the Minnesota Public Nuisance Law violated the First Amendment's protection of freedom of the press


Yes, the Court affirmed that the Minnesota Public Nuisance Law violated the freedom of the press, and maintained that prior restraints on publication are presumptively unconstitutional; meaning the government should not have the power to prevent the publication of material before it is distributed, except under exceptional circumstances.

The Court recognized the importance of a free and unrestrained press in a democratic society. It emphasized that while freedom of the press is not an absolute right and can be subject to reasonable regulation, the Minnesota law went too far by allowing censorship before publication.

The Court acknowledged that there are limitations on free speech and press, particularly when it comes to false statements that harm an individual's reputation. However, it held that the Minnesota law's approach of allowing government officials to determine what content should be restrained was overly broad and prone to abuse.


The ruling in Near v. Minnesota reinforced the principle that prior restraints on the press should be limited to extraordinary circumstances. This case had a lasting impact on the interpretation of freedom of the press in the United States.

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