McKinney v. Alabama

LOCATION:Georgia State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 74-532
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Alabama

CITATION: 424 US 669 (1976)
ARGUED: Dec 15, 1975
DECIDED: Mar 23, 1976

Joseph G. L. Marston, III – for respondent
Robert Eugene Smith – for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for McKinney v. Alabama

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 15, 1975 in McKinney v. Alabama

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 23, 1976 in McKinney v. Alabama

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Justice Rehnquist has three opinions of the Court — opinions and judgments of the Court to announce and will identify each of them as he announces those.

William H. Rehnquist:

The first one I will identify as McKinney against Alabama, No. 74-532, in which case the petitioner was convicted in an Alabama State Court of selling material which had been judicially declared obscene.

At his trial, he was not permitted to litigate the question of whether the material was obscene, even though he had not been a party to the earlier civil adjudication in which it was held obscene.

We granted certiorari to consider whether this procedure was consistent with our previous decisions delineating the safeguards which must attend the attempts by the States to prohibit dissemination of expression asserted to be protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments against such interference.

For the reasons set forth in an opinion which has been filed with the clerk this morning, we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama, which affirms petitioner’s conviction.

We conclude that the Constitution prohibits the state from binding petitioner by means of an adjudication rendered in a proceeding in which he had neither notice nor any opportunity to be heard.

In order to assure that his right to freedom of expression under First and Fourteenth Amendments is adequately protected, we hold that he must be afforded some opportunity to litigate on his own behalf, whether the material which he sought to disseminate was obscene, before he may be convicted of selling obscene material.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a concurring opinion in which Mr. Justice Marshall has joined and which Mr. Justice Stewart has joined in part.

Mr. Justice Blackmun has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.