Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville

PETITIONER:Richard Erznoznik
RESPONDENT:City of Jacksonville
LOCATION: University Drive-In Theater

DOCKET NO.: 73-1942
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 422 US 205 (1975)
ARGUED: Feb 26, 1975
DECIDED: Jun 23, 1975

Michael A. Maness – argued the cause for the appellant
William Lee Allen – argued the cause for the appellee
William H. Maness – for appellant

Facts of the case

The University Drive-In Theater in Jacksonville, Florida had a screen that was visible from nearby public streets. The theater showed an R-rated film containing female nudity, which violated a Jacksonville city ordinance that prohibited the showing of films containing nudity if the film was visible from a public area. Richard Erznoznik, the theater’s manager, was charged with a Class C offense under the ordinance. He challenged the ordinance in Duval County Circuit Court, which upheld the statute. The District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, affirmed the decision. The Supreme Court of Florida denied certiorari.


Did Jacksonville’s ordinance violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – February 26, 1975 in Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 23, 1975 in Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in No. 73-1942, Erznoznik against Jacksonville — the City of Jacksonville, and 74-634, United States against Nobles will each be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

A Jacksonville, Florida ordinance, directed at move in — at drive-in movie theaters prohibits the exhibition of films which contain nudity.

The ordinance was sustained by the Florida courts and came to us on appeal.

As we conclude that the ordinance infringes First Amendment rights, we reverse the decision of the Florida court.

This is an obscene — this is not an obscenity ordinance as it proscribes the showing of any nudity however innocent or educational.

It nevertheless was depended on three grounds.

One, as preventing offense to persons on public streets, two, as protecting children from scenes of nudity, and three, as a traffic measure.

In our view, the ordinance is both overbroad and underinclusive when tested against its specified purposes.

The intrusion on the privacy of passersby is limited.

The legitimate state interest in protecting children from obscenity is not furthered and if designed as a traffic measure, many things such as scenes of horror and violence are more likely to distract than many of the fleeting shots of nudity that abide by this ordinance.

In sum, although a city or a state has a legitimate interest that would support a non-discriminatory ordinance regulating drive-in theaters this ordinance unduly infringes upon First Amendment rights with little prospect of furthering any of the legitimate state interest.

Mr. Justice Douglas filed a concurring opinion.

The Chief Justice filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Rehnquist joined.

Mr. Justice White also filed a dissenting opinion.