48 A.2d 478 (N.H. 1946), 3598, The Chronicle & Gazette Publishing Co., Inc. v. Attorney-General

Docket Nº:3598
Citation:48 A.2d 478, 94 N.H. 148
Opinion Judge:KENISON
Party Name:The Chronicle & Gazette Publishing Co., Inc. v. Attorney-General
Attorney:Hughes & Burns (Mr. Walter A. Calderwood orally), for the plaintiff. Ernest R. D'Amours, Attorney-General (by brief and orally), pro se. (Gordon M. Tiffany, Law Assistant, on the brief). Ralph G. McCarthy, for defendant Durell, filed no brief. Certain other defendants, pro se, filed no briefs.
Case Date:June 27, 1946
Court:Supreme Court of New Hampshire
 
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Page 478

48 A.2d 478 (N.H. 1946)

94 N.H. 148

The Chronicle & Gazette Publishing Co., Inc.

v.

Attorney-General

No. 3598

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

June 27, 1946

Rockingham

Petition for declaratory judgment is an appropriate method to determine the constitutionality of a statute when the parties desire and the public need requires a speedy determination of important questions of law involving public interests.

The constitutionality of a statute is to be presumed and will not be declared invalid except on unescapable grounds.

[94 N.H. 149] Laws, 1945, c. 185, limiting rates for political advertising, is not so arbitrary and discriminatory as to be unconstitutional merely because its regulations are confined to advertisements in newspapers and radio and are silent as to other advertising media since the Legislature, in its attempt to correct evils, is not bound to cover the whole field of possible abuses so long as its regulations are established upon a reasonable basis.

The limitation on rates to be charged for political advertising by newspapers and radio by Laws, 1945, c. 185, does not unconstitutionally invade the right of freedom of contract since the act contains no requirement that political advertisements be accepted but in the event that they are accepted the rates therefor are subject to regulations tending to eliminate the abuse of political advertising as a corrupt practice.

Freedom of the press is not an absolute right.

The standard of guilt for violation of the provisions of Laws, 1945, c. 185, limiting rates for political advertising, is sufficiently certain and definite as to be constitutionally permissible.

Case Discharged.

SYLLABUS

Petition, for a declaratory judgment (R. L., c. 370, s. 20), to determine the constitutionality and the applicability to the plaintiff of Laws 1945, c. 185, "An act relating to political advertising," Section 2 of which provides: "No person or corporation, within the state, publishing a newspaper or other periodical or operating a radio station or network of stations shall receive for political advertising or for political broadcasts, a rate in excess of the rate or rates regularly charged by such person or corporation for commercial advertising or for commercial broadcasts of similar character and classification and no candidate or political committee shall pay for political advertising or broadcasts any rate or charge in excess of such rate or rates regularly charged."

The plaintiff publishes the Portsmouth Herald in the city of Portsmouth and "is the publisher of The New Hampshire Gazette, established October 7, 1756, and the oldest newspaper in America." The defendants, other than the Attorney-General, are officials of the Portsmouth City Political Committees who inserted political advertisements in the plaintiff's paper. These defendants paid and the plaintiffs received for these advertisements at the rate of $ 3 per inch. The rates charged by the plaintiff for commercial advertising was $ 1.50 per inch, local rate, and $ 2 per inch, open rate. Laws, 1945, c. 185, s. 3, requires a schedule of rates "for commercial advertising" to be filed with the Secretary of State, and the plaintiff filed the three above mentioned rates as his schedule.

The questions of law raised by the plaintiff's petition were reserved and transferred without ruling by the Court (Wheeler, J.).

Hughes & Burns (Mr. Walter A. Calderwood orally), for the plaintiff.

Ernest R. D'Amours, Attorney-General (by brief and orally), pro se. (Gordon M. Tiffany, Law Assistant, on the brief).

Ralph G. McCarthy, for defendant Durell, filed no brief.

Certain other defendants, pro se, filed no briefs.

OPINION

KENISON

Page 479

[94 N.H. 150] A petition for a declaratory judgment is particularly appropriate to determine the constitutionality of a statute when the parties desire and the public need

Page 480

requires a speedy determination of important public interests involved therein. Tirrell v. Johnston, 86 N.H. 530; Woolf v. Fuller, 87 N.H. 64; Anderson, Declaratory Judgments (Supp. 1946) 260.

The constitution of New Hampshire guarantees that the right to elect and be elected shall be free and equal. "All elections ought to be free, and every inhabitant of the state, having the proper qualifications, has equal right to elect, and be elected, into office..." Bill of Rights, art. 11th. Pursuant to this constitutional mandate the Legislature, at an early date enacted provisions to insure the purity of elections, R. L., c. 41. Subsequently there was enacted "An act to prevent corrupt practices at elections, and to regulate expenditures for political purposes and provide for the publicity thereof." Laws 1915, c. 169, which now appears in R. L., c. 42. This statute proceeded on the...

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