• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a special tax on large newspapers was invalid because it abridged the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

When Louisiana’s largest newspapers were critical of Senator Huey Long, his supporters in the legislature imposed a special license tax on all newspapers with more than twenty thousand subscribers. The tax applied to only 13 of the 163 newspapers in the state, and 12 of the 13 had actively opposed Long’s policies. Speaking for a unanimous Court, Justice George SutherlandSutherland, George;Grosjean v. American Press Co.[Grosjean v. American Press Co.] concluded that the tax was “a deliberate and calculated device” aimed at limiting the circulation of information about public affairs. Sutherland argued that “certain fundamental rights safeguarded in the first eight amendments” were applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment and that the Framers of the First Amendment had wanted to prevent all forms of prior restraint on either publication or circulation, including restraints through taxation.Press, freedom of;Grosjean v. American Press Co.[Grosjean v. American Press Co.]

Sutherland’s opinion observed that newspapers were not immune from nondiscriminatory general taxation. The Court emphasized this principle in Minnesota Star and Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue[case]Minnesota Star and Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue[Minnesota Star and Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue] (1983).

First Amendment

Incorporation doctrine

Near v. Minnesota

Speech and press, freedom of

State taxation

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