443 U.S. 97 (1979), 78-482, Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co.

Docket Nº:No. 78-482
Citation:443 U.S. 97, 99 S.Ct. 2667, 61 L.Ed.2d 399
Party Name:Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co.
Case Date:June 26, 1979
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 97

443 U.S. 97 (1979)

99 S.Ct. 2667, 61 L.Ed.2d 399

Smith

v.

Daily Mail Publishing Co.

No. 78-482

United States Supreme Court

June 26, 1979

Argued March 20, 1979

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF

APPEALS OF WEST VIRGINIA

Syllabus

Respondent newspapers published articles containing the name of a juvenile who had been arrested for allegedly killing another youth. Respondents learned of the event and the name of the alleged assailant by monitoring the police band radio frequency and by asking various eyewitnesses. Respondents were indicted for violating a West Virginia statute which makes it a crime for a newspaper to publish, without the written approval of the juvenile court, the name of any youth charged as a juvenile offender. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals granted a writ of prohibition against petitioners, the prosecuting attorney and the Circuit Judges of Kanawha County, W.Va., holding that the statute on which the indictment was based violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Held: The State cannot, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, punish the truthful publication of an alleged juvenile delinquent's name lawfully obtained by a newspaper. The asserted state interest in protecting the anonymity of the juvenile offender to further his rehabilitation cannot justify the statute's imposition of criminal sanctions for publication of a juvenile's name lawfully obtained. Pp. 101-106.

(a) Whether the statute is viewed as a prior restraint by authorizing the juvenile judge to permit publication or as a penal sanction for publishing lawfully obtained, truthful information is not dispositive, because even the latter action requires the highest form of state interest to sustain its validity. When a state attempts to punish publication after the event, it must demonstrate that its punitive action was necessary to further the state interests asserted. Landmark Communications, Inc. v. Virginia, 435 U.S. 829. Pp. 101-104.

(b) Respondents' First Amendment rights prevail over the State's interest in protecting juveniles. Cf. Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308. Even assuming that the statute served a state interest of the highest order, the statute does not accomplish its stated purpose, since it does not restrict the electronic media or any form of publication except "newspapers." Pp. 104-105.

___ W.Va. ___, 248 S.E.2d 269, affirmed.

Page 98

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 106. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to consider whether a West Virginia statute violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution by making it a crime for a newspaper to publish, without the written approval of the juvenile court, the name of any youth charged as a juvenile offender.

(1)

The challenged West Virginia statute provides:

[N]or shall the name of any child, in connection with any proceedings under this chapter, be published in any newspaper without a written order of the court. . . .

W.Va.Code § 49-7-3 (1976); and:

A person who violates . . . a provision of this chapter for which punishment has not been specifically provided,

Page 99

shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than ten nor more than one hundred dollars, [99 S.Ct. 2669] or confined in jail not less than five days nor more than six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.

§ 49-7-20.

On February 9, 1978, a 15-year-old student was shot and killed at Hayes Junior High School in St. Albans, W.Va., a small community located about 13 miles outside of Charleston, W.Va. The alleged assailant, a 14-year-old classmate, was identified by seven different eyewitnesses and was arrested by police soon after the incident.

The Charleston Daily Mail and the Charleston Gazette, respondents here, learned of the shooting by monitoring routinely the police band radio frequency; they immediately dispatched reporters and photographers to the junior high school. The reporters for both papers obtained the name of the alleged assailant simply by asking various witnesses, the police, and an assistant prosecuting attorney who were at the school.

The staffs of both newspapers prepared articles for publication about the incident. The Daily Mail's first article appeared in its February 9 afternoon edition. The article did not mention the alleged attacker's name. The editorial decision to omit the name was made because of the statutory prohibition against publication without prior court approval.

The Gazette made a contrary editorial decision, and published the juvenile's name and picture in an article about the shooting that appeared in the February 10 morning edition of the paper. In addition, the name of the alleged juvenile attacker was broadcast over at least three different radio station on February 9 and 10. Since the information had become

Page 100

public knowledge, the Daily Mail decided to include the juvenile's name in an article in its afternoon paper on February 10.

On March 1, an indictment against the respondents was returned by a grand jury. The indictment alleged that each knowingly published the name of a youth involved in a juvenile proceeding in violation of W.Va.Code § 49-7-3 (1976). Respondents then filed an original jurisdiction petition with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, seeking a writ of prohibition against the prosecuting attorney and the Circuit Court Judges of Kanawha County, petitioners here. Respondents alleged that the indictment was based on a statute that violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and several provisions of the State's Constitution and requested an order prohibiting the county officials from taking any action on the indictment.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals issued the writ of prohibition. ___ W.Va. ___, 248 S.E.2d 269 (1978). Relying on holdings of this Court, it held that the statute abridged the freedom of the press. The court reasoned that the statute operated as a prior restraint on speech, and that the State's interest in protecting the identity of the juvenile offender did not overcome the heavy presumption against the constitutionality of such prior restraints.

We granted certiorari. 439 U.S. 963 (1978).

(2)

Respondents urge this Court to hold that, because § 49-7-3 requires court approval prior to publication of the juvenile's name it operates as a "prior restraint" on speech.1 See Nebraska

Page 101

Press Assn: v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539 (1976); New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971); Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe, 402 U.S. 415 (171); Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U.S. 697 (1931). Respondents concede that this statute is not in the classic mold of prior restraint, there being no prior injunction against publication...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP