Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan

PETITIONER: Bantam Books, Inc.
LOCATION: Georgia State Capitol

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 372 US 58 (1963)
ARGUED: Dec 03, 1962 / Dec 04, 1962
DECIDED: Feb 18, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 03, 1962 in Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 04, 1962 in Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan

Earl Warren:

-- 118, Bantam Books, Incorporated et al., Appellants versus Joseph A. Sullivan et al.

Mr. Manges.

Horace S. Manges:

Mr. Chief Justice and other members of the Court.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court in sustaining constitutionality of both the resolution and of the Commission's actions in sending out its notices remanded the case to the Superior Court for the entry of a final decree in conformity with its majority opinion.

The facts of this case are undisputed and they are as follows.

Between July 1957, which was shortly after this Commission began to function, and early 1960 when this action was started, the Commission sent out to booksellers throughout the State of Rhode Island and also to sellers of magazines, at least 35 separate notices, each listing books and magazines which the Commission had found objectionable for sale or youth -- or display to youth under 18.

John M. Harlan II:

Was the statute is limited to youth?

Horace S. Manges:

Yes, Your Honor.

That's it.

John M. Harlan II:

I thought it's more general.

Horace S. Manges:

The statute creating the Commission.

It's the Commission to encourage the morality in youth, but that to recommend prosecution of all the state obscenity laws including those which apply to it -- to adults.

John M. Harlan II:

(Voice Overlap) excluding those for adults.

Horace S. Manges:

Yes sir.

Potter Stewart:

To be the duty of that Commission to educate the public.

Horace S. Manges:

The public.

Potter Stewart:

Everybody not just the young kids.

Horace S. Manges:

That's right.

By early 1960, the Commission admitted that it had found 108 books and magazines thus objectionable.

One of the recipients of these notices was the firm of Max Silverstein and Sons of Providence which was the exclusive wholesale distributor of appellant's books for 70% to 75% of the State of Rhode Island including all of the City of Providence.

The first notice that the Silverstein firm received was dated July 19, 1957.

It appears at page 55 of the record and as you will note is on the official letterhead of the Commission as were all the other notices.

It contains several significant statements and I should like to read some of them.

This agency was established by a legislative order in 1956 with the immediate charge to prevent the sale, distribution or display of indecent and obscene publications to youths under 18 years of age.

“The Commissioners have reviewed the following publications and by majority vote, had declared that they are completely objectionable for sale, distribution or display for youth under 18,” then those three magazines, and then it goes on, “The Chiefs of Police have been given the names of the aforesaid magazines with the order that they are not to be sold, distributed or displayed to youths under 18 years of age.

The Attorney General will act for us in case of non-compliance.

The Commissioners trust that you will cooperate with this agency in their work.”

And then the notice ends, “thanking you for your anticipated cooperation”.

A further Commission threat to recommend prosecution to the Attorney General is contained in another Commission notice being petitioners' Exhibit 11, we being the petitioners down below.

That Exhibit appears at page 76 of the record and I should like to read the last two sentences.