FOIA Opinions by Topic
Opinions by topic: Regulation of speech, including obscenity & advertising
(List all topics)
- House v. Commonwealth (9/5/1969): The Court reversed and dismissed an indictment for a gentleman who sold the "girlie" magazines KNIGHT and RAW. They were not proved beyond a reasonable doubt to be obscene and beyond the area of constitutionally protected expressions, the Court ruled. Determination of whether a particular work of expression is obscene is not merely a factual matter on which jury's verdict is conclusive, but also involves an issue of constitutional law which must ultimately be decided by the Court. The definition of obscenity depends in part on "contemporary community standards," and expert testimony is required to establish those standards. The personal opinions of jurors or witnesses do not in themselves necessarily express or reflect community standards.
- Bigelow v. Commonwealth (9/1/0972): Bigelow was tried, convicted, and fined for publishing an advertisement in the Virginia Weekly, a Charlottesville newspaper, that advertised abortion services in New York. The Court ruled that the statute, which forbid "encouraging or prompting" abortions in any way, was constitutional. The ruling distinguished the lawful regulation of advertisements from the unlawful abridgement of free expression. The Court said that Bigelow could not assert the hypothetical rights of those whose speech is usually protected -- such as doctors or lecturers -- in making his own claim about commercial advertising.
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