Kingsley International Pictures Corporation v. Regents of the University of the State of New York

PETITIONER: Kingsley International Pictures Corporation
RESPONDENT: Regents of the University of the State of New York
LOCATION: United States Senate

DOCKET NO.: 394
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 360 US 684 (1959)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Kingsley International Pictures Corporation v. Regents of the University of the State of New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 1959 in Kingsley International Pictures Corporation v. Regents of the University of the State of New York

Earl Warren:

Number 394, Kingsley International Pictures Corporation, Appellant, versus the Regents of the University of the State of New York.

Mr. London, you may proceed.

Ephraim London:

May it please the Court.

We are here on appeal from an order of the New York State Court of Appeals.

The order sustained a ban of a moving picture.

The name of the picture is Lady Chatterley's Lover based on a novel by D.H.Lawrence.

Under the laws of the State of New York, a film may not be shown in a public theater until it has first been shown to a Board of Censors known as the Motion Picture Division, and it is approved and licensed by that division.

The Motion Picture Division is an agency of the Department of Education which is governed by the Board of Regents and, hence, the appellees in this case are the Regents of the State of New York.

Originally, when the film was submitted to the Motion Picture Division, the division indicated that it would not license the film unless three short sequences, taking about two minutes in all, were deleted.

The appellant, the distributor of the film who owns the exhibition rights, refused to make any deletion and appealed, as he was required to do, to the Regents.

The Regents decided that not only were the three short sequences immoral, but that the whole picture was immoral.

An appeal was taken from a -- from the determination of the Regents to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, and the Appellate Division held the statute, under which, the film was banned to be unconstitutional.

The regents then appealed to the New York State Court of Appeals, and that court reversed the decision of the Appellate Division.

Now, there is no majority opinion in the Court of Appeals of the State of New York.

Three of the judges ruled that the statutes in question were constitutional.

Three voted for -- to affirm the lower court which held the statute unconstitutional and one judge who cast the deciding vote stated that he wasn't sure whether the statute was constitutional or not and that this Court ought to decide the question, and it is now here before you.

Now, we are seeking various kinds of relief.

We first seek a declaration from this Court, as we did below, by the way, that the entire film licensing system be declared unconstitutional as a prohibited form of prior restraint of communication.

If that relief is not granted --

You mean across the Board, not --

Ephraim London:

Yes, Your Honor.

-- not as applied in this case but across the Board?

Ephraim London:

Across the Board, without any question relating to the application in this particular case.

Potter Stewart:

Without any question relating to the verbal formulation in the New York statute?

Ephraim London:

Without any question relating to the particular formulation of this statute, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

Even, in other words, your first contention, and I understand it's your first broad contention, even if the New York statute hadn't provided that obscene films could be restrained --

Ephraim London:

It is our position, Your Honor, that if the statute said, merely, that films shall be denied a license if they are obscene --

Potter Stewart:

Yes.

Ephraim London:

-- and all other films shall be granted license --

Potter Stewart:

Yes.