303 N.Y. 242, Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson

Citation:303 N.Y. 242
Party Name:Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson
Case Date:October 18, 1951
Court:New York Court of Appeals

Page 242

303 N.Y. 242

In the Matter of JOSEPH BURSTYN, INC., Appellant,

v.

LEWIS A. WILSON, as Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, et al., Respondents.

New York Court of Appeal

October 18, 1951

Argued June 1, 1951.

Page 243

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 244

COUNSEL

Ephraim S. London, Clendon H. Lee, Leonard P. Simpson and Seymour M. Burg for appellant. I. The Regents have no power to revoke a film license or to review the motion picture division's action in granting a license. (Cannon v. Towner, 188 Misc. 955; Matter of Cherry v. Board of Regents, 289 N.Y. 148; United States v. Alpers, 338 U.S. 680.) II. Even if there were statutory authority, there was no legal justification for the revocation of the licenses for 'The Miracle'. (United Artists Corp. v. Amity Amusement Corp., 188 Misc. 146; Matter of Reynolds v. Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority, 276 A.D. 388; Matter of Mayer v. Byrne, 256 A.D. 431;

Page 245

Matter of D & D Realty Corp. v. Coster, 277 A.D. 668; Matter of New York State Employees' Retirement System v. Board of Supervisors, 157 Misc. 87, 251 A.D. 198, 278 N.Y. 496; Matter of Bohrer v. Coster, 195 Misc. 274; Matter of Hall v. Walsh, 137 Misc. 448, 221 A.D. 756; Matter of Translux Brooklyn Theaters Corp., N.Y. L. J., Dec. 19, 1934, p. 2473, col. 12; Butterworth v. United States ex rel. Hoe, 112 U.S. 50; Matter of L'Hommedieu v. Board of Regents, 276 A.D. 494.)III. The censorship law as construed by the Regents violates the constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and the separation of Church and State. (Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Educ., 333 U.S. 203; Everson v. Board of Educ., 330 U.S. 1; West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624; Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296.) IV. The law under which the Regents acted imposes an unconstitutional restraint on freedom of expression and communication. (Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233; De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353; Herndon v. Lowry, 301 U.S. 242; Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444; United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U.S. 131; Saia v. New York, 334 U.S. 558; Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77; McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. [U. S.] 316; Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Comm. of Ohio, 236 U.S. 230; Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652; Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U.S. 697; Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516; Hannegan v. Esquire, Inc., 327 U.S. 146; Winters v. New York, 333 U.S. 507; Dumont Laboratories v. Carroll, 184 F.2d 153; Perkins v. Endicott Johnson Corp., 128 F.2d 208.)

Newell G. Alford, Jr., Osmond K. Fraenkel, Herbert Monte Levy and Robert Markewich for New York City Civil Liberties Committee and another, amici curiae, in support of appellant's position. I. The Board of Regents has no power express or implied to revoke the license granted by its motion picture division. II. To serve the ends of the First Amendment, motion pictures must receive its protection. Even if movies were mere entertainment, they would still be protected by the First Amendment. But they are not now mere entertainment. (Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Comm. of Ohio, 236 U.S. 230; Hannegan v. Esquire, Inc., 327 U.S. 146; Winters v. New York, 333 U.S. 507.)

Page 246

  1. Only after the Mutual Film Corp. case was it held that the First Amendment, via the Fourteenth, protects speech from State action. (Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252.) IV. The New York State censorship law establishes a previous administrative restraint, the form of restraint which inevitably and most completely violates the freedom of the press. (Leach v. Carlile, 258 U.S. 138; Largent v. Texas, 318 U.S. 418; American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382.) V. Revocation or denial of a license for a film on a finding that it is sacrilegious is a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The standard of sacrilege is void for vagueness. (Connally v. General Constr. Co., 269 U.S. 385; United States v. Cohen Grocery Co., 255 U.S. 81; Jordan v. De George, 341 U.S. 223; Kunz v. New York, 340 U.S. 290; Standard Chemicals & Metals Corp. v. Waugh Chemical Corp., 231 N.Y. 51.) VI. A statutory ban on sacrilege is void as an establishment of religion. (Everson v. Board of Educ., 330 U.S. 1; Regina v. Ramsay & Foote, 15 Cox C. C. 231; Regina v. Bradlaugh, 15 Cox C. C. 217; Commonwealth v. Kneeland, 37 Mass. 206; People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290; State v. Chandler, 2 Harr. [Del.] 553; Oney v. Oklahoma City, 120 F.2d 861; Lynch v. City of Muskogee, 47 F.Supp. 589; Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1; West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624.)

Herman Seid for Metropolitan Committee for Religious Liberty, amicus curiae, in support of appellant's position. I. The First Amendment covers freedom of expression not limited to vocal speech and the printed word. II. The constitutional principle of separation of Church and State has been violated by the Regents' cancellation of the license for the motion picture 'The Miracle'. III. 'Sacrilege' has no status under the Constitution. IV. No religious group is entitled to bar a film on the ground of sacrilege.

Emanuel Redfield for New York Chapter, Artists Equity Association, amicus curiae, in support of appellant's position. I. The revocation of the license on the ground the film was sacrilegious is unconstitutional. (Winters v. New York, 333 U.S. 507; Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan, 293 U.S. 388; Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495.) II. To revoke

Page 247

the license on a new construction is a denial of due process. (Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451.)III. The motion picture licensing provisions are unconstitutional as an invasion of the free expression of ideas. (Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Comm. of Ohio, 236 U.S. 230; Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652; Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U.S. 697; Hannegan v. Esquire, Inc., 327 U.S. 146; Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88; Ex parte Jackson, 96 U.S. 727.)

Will Maslow, Leo Pfeffer, Joseph B. Robison and Philip Baum for American Jewish Congress, amicus curiae, in support of appellant's position. I. The rationale and effect of section 122 of the Education Law is to aid and assist in an establishment of religion contrary to the mandate of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Davis v. Gardiner, 4 Coke 16b; Bury v. Chappel, Gouldsb. 135; Ireland v. Smith, 1 Br. & Gold. 12; Palmer v. Thorpe, 4 Coke 28; Specot's Case, 5 Coke 57b; Nicholson v. Lyne, Cro. Eliz. 94; Halwood v. Hopkins, Cro. Eliz. 787.) II. Section 122 of the Education Law requiring the State to pass upon religious views and penalize those found 'sacrilegious' involves the State in religious affairs and restricts religious liberty in contravention of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333; Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145; United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78; Watson v. Jones, 80 U.S. 679; West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624; Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568; Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan, 293 U.S. 388; United States v. Dettra Flag Co., 86 F.Supp. 84.)

Charles A. Brind, Jr., John P. Jehu, Elizabeth M. Eastman and George B. Farrington for respondents. I. 'The Miracle' is sacrilegious per se; it may not be legally exhibited in the State; the Regents not only have the power but it is their duty to revoke the license. (Hughes Tool Co. v. Fielding, 188 Misc. 947, 272 A.D. 1048, 297 N.Y. 1024; Matter of D & D Realty Corp. v. Coster, 277 A.D. 668; Matter of Equitable Trust Co. v. Hamilton, 226 N.Y. 241; Matter of Walker v. Board of Regents, 269 N.Y. 418; Matter of McInerney v. Valentine, 181 Misc. 1062; Matter of Katz v. Goldwater, 260 A.D. 495, 285 N.Y. 830; Matter of Stanton v. Municipal Civil Service Comm., 189 Misc. 782; Matter of Lanza v. Ryan, 228 A.D. 632, 253 N.Y. 581;

Page 248

Matter of O'Brien v. Delaney, 255 A.D. 385, 280 N.Y. 697; People ex rel. Finnegan v. McBride, 226 N.Y. 252.)II. The motion picture law of New York State does not violate either the State or United States Constitution. (Pathe Exch., Inc., v. Cobb, 202 A.D. 450; Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Comm. of Ohio, 236 U.S. 230; Mutual Film Co. v. Industrial Comm. of Ohio, 236 U.S. 247; Mutual Film Corp. v. Hodges, 236 U.S. 248; RD-DR Corp. v. Smith, 183 F.2d 562, 340 U.S. 853; United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U.S. 131; Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77; Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 297 U.S. 288; Great Falls Mfg. Co. v. Attorney General, 124 U.S. 581; Wall v. Parrott Silver & Copper Co., 244 U.S. 407; St. Louis Malleable Casting Co. v. Prendergast Constr. Co., 260 U.S. 469; United States v. San Francisco, 310 U.S. 16; Fahey v. Mallonee, 332 U.S. 245.) III. Neither section 122 of the Education Law nor the action taken by the Board of Regents in the case at bar constitute an infringement upon religious liberty. (Fox Film Corp. v. Trumbull, 7 F.2d 715, 269 U.S. 597; Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296; Updegraph v. Commonwealth, 11 Serg. & Raw. [Pa.] 394; Vidal v. Girard's Executors, 2 How. [U. S.] 127; People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290; State v. Chandler, 2 Del. 553; Commonwealth v. Kneeland, 20 Pick. [Mass.] 206; Zeisweiss v. James, 63 Pa. 465; Church of Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457.)

Patrick C. Dugan, Charles J. Tobin, Edmond B. Butler, Porter R. Chandler and George A. Timone for New York State Catholic Welfare Committee, amicus curiae, in support of respondents' position. I. The Appellate Division correctly held that there was a reasonable basis for the decision of the Regents that 'The Miracle' is sacrilegious. II. The Appellate Division correctly held that unless the action of the Regents was arbitrary or capricious, it had no power to override their findings. (Matter of Foy Productions, Ltd., v. Graves, 253 A.D. 475, 278 N.Y. 498; Matter of Public Welfare Pictures Corp. v....

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18 practice notes
  • 121 N.E.2d 585 (Ill. 1954), 33043, American Civil Liberties Union v. City of Chicago
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 24 Mayo 1954
    ...religion 'with contempt, mockery, scorn and ridicule', or any 'visual caricature of religious beliefs held sacred by one sect or another'. 303 N.Y. 242, 258, Page 589 101 N.E.2d 665, 672. The Supreme Court observed that this statutory standard was so broad as to vest unlimited discretion in......
  • 24 Misc.2d 248, Hofstra College v. Wilmerding
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court of New York
    • 10 Agosto 1960
    ...of the rule in Joseph Burstyne, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 495, 72 S.Ct. 777, 96 L.Ed. 1098 after the New York Court of Appeals stated [303 N.Y. 242, 260, 101 N.E.2d 665, 673] that petitioner having sought and obtained benefits under the statute should not be heard on the constitutional issue......
  • 56 Misc.2d 388, People v. Carmichael
    • United States
    • 29 Febrero 1968
    ...may be validly exercised are varied and include matters which affect the general welfare of the people (Joseph Burstyn, Inc., v. Wilson, 303 N.Y. 242, 101 N.E.2d 665, rev'd on other grounds 343 U.S. 495, 72 S.Ct. 777, 96 L.Ed. 1098); together with areas covering public health and safety (Wi......
  • 481 S.E.2d 297 (N.C.App. 1997), COA96-388, Mullins v. North Carolina Criminal Justice Educ. and Training Standards Com'n
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals of North Carolina
    • 18 Febrero 1997
    ...Comr. of Insurance v. North Carolina Rate Bureau, 300 N.C. 381, 399, 269 S.E.2d 547, 561 (1980) (citing Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 303 N.Y. 242, 101 N.E.2d 665 (1951), rev'd on other grounds, 343 U.S. 495, 72 S.Ct. 777, 96 L.Ed. 1098 (1952)), reh'g denied, 301 N.C. 107, 273 S.E.2d 300 ......
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18 cases
  • 121 N.E.2d 585 (Ill. 1954), 33043, American Civil Liberties Union v. City of Chicago
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 24 Mayo 1954
    ...religion 'with contempt, mockery, scorn and ridicule', or any 'visual caricature of religious beliefs held sacred by one sect or another'. 303 N.Y. 242, 258, Page 589 101 N.E.2d 665, 672. The Supreme Court observed that this statutory standard was so broad as to vest unlimited discretion in......
  • 24 Misc.2d 248, Hofstra College v. Wilmerding
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court of New York
    • 10 Agosto 1960
    ...of the rule in Joseph Burstyne, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 495, 72 S.Ct. 777, 96 L.Ed. 1098 after the New York Court of Appeals stated [303 N.Y. 242, 260, 101 N.E.2d 665, 673] that petitioner having sought and obtained benefits under the statute should not be heard on the constitutional issue......
  • 56 Misc.2d 388, People v. Carmichael
    • United States
    • 29 Febrero 1968
    ...may be validly exercised are varied and include matters which affect the general welfare of the people (Joseph Burstyn, Inc., v. Wilson, 303 N.Y. 242, 101 N.E.2d 665, rev'd on other grounds 343 U.S. 495, 72 S.Ct. 777, 96 L.Ed. 1098); together with areas covering public health and safety (Wi......
  • 481 S.E.2d 297 (N.C.App. 1997), COA96-388, Mullins v. North Carolina Criminal Justice Educ. and Training Standards Com'n
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals of North Carolina
    • 18 Febrero 1997
    ...Comr. of Insurance v. North Carolina Rate Bureau, 300 N.C. 381, 399, 269 S.E.2d 547, 561 (1980) (citing Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 303 N.Y. 242, 101 N.E.2d 665 (1951), rev'd on other grounds, 343 U.S. 495, 72 S.Ct. 777, 96 L.Ed. 1098 (1952)), reh'g denied, 301 N.C. 107, 273 S.E.2d 300 ......
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