Case Study: Miller V. California

1116 Words5 Pages

In 1971, Marvin Miller, owner of a mail-order business in California specializing in pornographic materials, sent out explicit and unsolicited advertisements for books and movies that contained graphic and uncensored images of sexual activity (Elias, Elias, Bullough, & Brewer, 1999). A business in Newport Beach, California received this mailing and the owner and his mother notified the police of its content, Miller was arrested and subsequently convicted for violating a state statute that prohibited the distribution of obscene material; Miller appealed claiming the materials were protected under the First Amendment’s right to free speech (Elias, et al., 1999). The 1973 decision handed down by the Supreme Court in Miller v. California, defined the scope of First Amendment protections and introduced specific qualifications to determine obscene materials. A key factor in the tension surrounding the right to free speech and materials designated as being obscene stems from the difficulty of defining obscenity. An oft quoted statement regarding an explanation of obscenity was expressed by Justice Potter Stewart in the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of …show more content…

California (1973), a 5-4 decision with Chief Justice Warren E. Burger writing for the majority, rejected the argument that the sale and distribution of obscene material was protected under the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. Chief Justice Burger evolved the standard set by the Roth test however in redefining the definition of obscenity from that of, “utterly without socially redeeming value” to that that lacks "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value”, the key being a shift in burden to the defense now having to prove that the disputed work has value rather than the prosecution having to prove it does not (Miller v. California, 1973). Chief Justice Burger also reimagined the community standards aspect by

Open Document