• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that newspaper offices do not have any special protection from searches and seizures.

Local police clashed with demonstrators at Stanford University Hospital, and the school paper, The Stanford Daily, printed a photograph of the ruckus. Police hoped to find more photographs and obtained a warrant to search the paper’s office where, finding no pictures, they instead read confidential files. The paper sued under the First and Fourth Amendments, and the lower federal courts agreed. However, the Supreme Court ruled five to three against the Stanford paper. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Byron R. WhiteWhite, Byron R.;Zurcher v. The Stanford Daily[Zurcher v. The Stanford Daily] wrote that there that there was no special Fourth Amendment protection governing searches of press offices. Justices Potter Stewart and Thurgood Marshall dissented, arguing that under the circumstances, the warrant did threaten press operations and have a negative effect on potential news sources. Justice John Paul Stevens found the warrant unconstitutional because the newspaper was not under suspicion. Media outrage at the Court’s decision led to passage of the 1980 Privacy Protection Act.Newsroom searches;Zurcher v. The Stanford Daily[Zurcher v. The Stanford Daily]

Justice Byron R. White, in his majority opinion in Zurcher, saw no special Fourth Amendment protections governing searches of press rooms.

(Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

First Amendment

Fourth Amendment

Mapp v. Ohio

Near v. Minnesota

New York Times Co. v. United States

Newsroom searches

Prior restraint

Reversals of Court decisions by Congress

Search warrant requirement

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