New York Times Company v. United States Case Brief

Facts of the case

In what became known as the Pentagon Papers Case,the Nixon Administration attempted to prevent the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing materials belonging to a classified Defense Department study regarding the history of United States activities in Vietnam. The President argued that prior restraint was necessary to protect national security. This case was decided together with United States v. Washington Post Co.

Why is the case important?

The New York Times and the Washington Post published excerpts from a top secret Defense Department study of the Vietnam War. The study revealed in great detail United States military policy toward Indochina. The government filed suit seeking to enjoin the further publication of the materials.


Whether the United States met the heavy burden of showing justification for the enforcement of such a restraint on the New York Times and Washington Post to enjoin them from publishing contents of a classified study?


No. Judgments of the lower courts affirmed. The order of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is reversed and remanded with directions to enter a judgment affirming the District Court. The stays entered June 25, 1971, by the Court are vacated. The mandates shall issue forthwith.


The Court held that the government did not meet its burden of showing justification for the imposition of a prior restraint of expression. Furthermore, it stated that under the First Amendment, the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions, or prior restraints, and that the guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government was not justified.

  • Advocates: Alexander M. Bickel for the petitioner in No. 1873 Erwin N. Griswold Solicitor General, for the United States in both cases William R. Glendon for the respondents in No. 1885
  • Petitioner: New York Times Company
  • Respondent: United States
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: Former New York Times Headquarters
Citation: 403 US 713 (1971)
Argued: Jun 26, 1971
Decided: Jun 30, 1971
New York Times Company v. United States Case Brief