The Supreme Court for the first time applied the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press to state governments under the incorporation doctrine under the Fourteenth Amendment.
J. M. Near published a newspaper in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, which denounced local government officials particularly Jews for graft and corruption. In the absence of applicable federal statutes, Minnesota authorities sought to use state statutes to prevent Near from publishing his newspaper. When the case reached the Supreme Court, there were two major issues involved. The first was whether the Bill of Rights applied to state laws. The second was whether prior restraint was justified. Despite the despicable character of Near’s views, the Court rejected any prior restraint on newspapers and applied the freedom of press portion of the First Amendment to state governments under the incorporation doctrine under the Fourteenth Amendment. Near did not have a strong personal reputation, but his cause was taken up by Robert McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, as an important case involving freedom of the press. With McCormick’s financial help, the case reached the Court, where freedom of the press prevailed. Near remains the landmark case regarding prior restraint.
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan
New York Times Co. v. United States