10 Most Important U.S. Supreme Court Cases for Journalists


Near v. Minnesota (1931)

This case helped the Supreme Court define freedom of the press and the concept of prior restraint. When Minneapolis newspaper editor Jay Near attacked local officials by claiming in print that they were associated with gangsters, Minnesota officials obtained an injunction to keep Near from publishing his paper under state law. The law said that anyone who published a "malicious, scandalous and defamatory" newspaper article was a nuisance and could be stopped from publishing such information.

The Supreme Court had to determine if the Minnesota law restricted freedom of the press. The Court ruled that the law kept certain information from being published - a concept called prior restraint -- and violated the First Amendment. This case helped establish the principle that the government can't censor or prohibit a publication in advance, with a few exceptions, even though the communication might be actionable in a future proceeding [source: Oyez].