Miller v. California Case Brief

Facts of the case

Miller, after conducting a mass mailing campaign to advertise the sale of adultmaterial, was convicted of violating a California statute prohibiting the distribution of obscene material. Some unwilling recipients of Miller’s brochures complained to the police, initiating the legal proceedings.

Why is the case important?

This is one of a group of “obscenity-pornography” cases being reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) in a re-examination of the standards, which must be used to identify obscene material that a State may regulate.


Whether the obscenity presented in this case is prohibited by the applicable state statute?


In sum, the Supreme Court: (a) reaffirmed the Roth holding that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution), (b) held that such material can be regulated by the States, subject to specific safeguards, without a showing that the material is “utterly without redeeming social value and (c) held that obscenity is to be determined by applying “contemporary community standards.” As a result, the majority determined that the material at issue in this case was not protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution and that the California state statute could regulate the matter. Furthermore, the requirement that a California jury evaluate the materials with reference to “contemporary standards” is constitutionally adequate.


The court vacated the state court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court defined the standards that were to be used to identify obscene material that a state might regulate without infringing on the First Amendment , applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment . The Court held that the standard to determine whether material was obscene was whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, not national standards, would find that the work appealed to the prurient interest, whether the work depicted sexual conduct defined by state law, and whether the work lacked serious literary, artistic, or scientific value. The Court vacated and remanded the state court’s decision.

  • Advocates: Burton Marks Reargued the cause for the appellant Michael R. Capizzi Reargued the cause for the appellee Mark
  • Appellant: Marvin Miller
  • Appellee: California
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: Collectors Publications
Citation: 413 US 15 (1973)
ReArgued: Nov 7, 1972
Decided: Jun 21, 1973
Argued: Jan 18 – 19, 1972
Miller v. California Case Brief