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New York Times Co. v. U.S., 403 U.S. 713 (1971), Case Study Example

Pages: 2

Words: 603

Case Study

Orders of Certiorari were granted in the case where the United States sought to enjoin the New York Times Co. and the Washington Post, from publishing the contents of a classified study entitled “History of US Decision-Making Process on Vietnam Policy”.

However from an analytical perspective, the question to ask is what are the important facts in these two cases?

Factually, the New York Times Company and Washington Post managed on their own, to access classified documents relating to the US policy making process during the war in Vietnam and were about to publish them, when a stay of execution was imposed by the United States Government.

Under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, both companies had every right to publish the material, because it states in part, “people shall not be deprived or abridged of their rights, according to Justice Black, to speak, write, or to publish their sentiments, and the freedom of the press as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable”. (www.supreme.justice.com/us/403/713 )

Earlier the District Court of Southern District of New York in the case of the New York Times, and District of Court for the District of Columbia, in the case of the Washington Post, had upheld the Government restraining order, but the judges overruled the decision, saying the US Government did not meet the burden of proof required to justify such an imposition.

What then is the issue at hand in these two cases before the Justices?

The Issue at Hand

Does the New York Times Company and the Washington Post, have the constitutional right to publish these documents; which were considered of a sensitive nature by the United Sates Government, and could cause irreparable harm to the nation and its people as a whole?

Decision

Mr. Justice Black in concurring with Mr. Justice Douglas, wrote that he agrees that the Government’s case against the Washington Post should have been dismissed, and the injunction against the New York Times be vacated without oral arguments, from the moment they came before the courts.

The decision of the lower courts was therefore reversed.

Final answer: Yes

Rationale

The ruling in both cases were based on precedent established in the Bantam Books, Inc v Sullivan 372 U.S.,372 U.S.(1963), the Near v Minnesota 283 U.S.697 (1931), and the Austin v Keefe 402 U.S.415.402.U.S. 419 (1971), where the justices argued emphatically, that any system of prior restraint of expression coming before the courts, bears a heavy presumption against constitutional validity. There were also no justifiable proofs presented to verify the restraints imposed by the US Government.

Principle

The Justices employed the principle of precedence, which imply that the opinion of a federal judge must be accepted by a lower court.

Mr. Justice Black believes that every moment of continuance against both newspapers, amounts to flagrant, indefensible violation of their First Amendment Rights, while Mr. Justice Douglas concluded, that the stay that was imposed for more than a week, constituted a flouting of the principles of the First Amendment, as interpreted in Near v. Minnesota.

Justice Brennan

Mr. Justice Brennan quoting Near v. Minnesota, and Friedman v. Maryland 380 U.S. 51 (1965), remarked that the Government had not made its case, and the First Amendment commands that no injunction may be issued.

Finally Messer Justices Stewart and White concurring in favor of the other justices ruling, expressed sympathy for the Executive by saying they agree with their reasoning, but saw no immediate and irreparable damage that can possible be inflicted on the nation or its people.

Reference

Hill, Gerald, N., Hill, Kathleen T., Plain –English Law Dictionary 1st edition Nola, Berkley, CA p.63, 326

Justice US Supreme Court Center, New York Times Co. v United States 403U.S.713 (1971) www.supreme.justia.com/us/403/713 , 02/04/11

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