Milky Way Productions, Inc. v. Leary, No. 69 Civ. 3638

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtFEINBERG, Circuit , and MURPHY and FRANKEL
Citation305 F. Supp. 288
Decision Date27 February 1970
Docket NumberNo. 69 Civ. 3638,3808.
PartiesMILKY WAY PRODUCTIONS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Howard R. LEARY et al., Defendants. NEW YORK FEED CO., Inc., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Howard R. LEARY et al., Defendants.

305 F. Supp. 288

MILKY WAY PRODUCTIONS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Howard R. LEARY et al., Defendants.

NEW YORK FEED CO., Inc., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Howard R. LEARY et al., Defendants.

Nos. 69 Civ. 3638, 3808.

United States District Court S. D. New York.

October 15, 1969.

Judgment Affirmed February 27, 1970.


305 F. Supp. 289

Ralph J. Schwarz, Jr., New York City, for plaintiffs Milky Way Productions, Inc., and another.

Herald Price Fahringer, Buffalo, N. Y., for plaintiffs New York Feed Company, Inc., and another.

J. Lee Rankin, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York for defendant Howard R. Leary; Irving Gerstman, Brooklyn, N. Y., of counsel.

Frank S. Hogan, Dist. Atty. of New York County, pro se; Michael R. Juviler, Herman Kaufman, Asst. Dist. Attys., of counsel.

Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen. of the State of New York; Charles A. LaTorella, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen. of the State of New York, of counsel.

Before FEINBERG, Circuit Judge, and MURPHY and FRANKEL, District Judges.

Judgment Affirmed February 27, 1970. See 90 S.Ct. 817.

FRANKEL, District Judge.

This three-judge court has been convened to consider applications for injunctive and other relief by plaintiffs in two consolidated cases who assert that their rights under the First Amendment, as it applies via the Fourteenth, are being infringed by state arrests and prosecutions on obscenity charges.

In one case plaintiffs are Milky Way Productions, Inc., and two of its officers, engaged in publishing a weekly tabloid called "Screw, The Sex Review." The other suit is brought by New York Feed Company, Inc., and Stephen Heller, who publish a bi-weekly tabloid entitled "The New York Review of Sex & Politics." Defendants in both cases are Howard R. Leary, Police Commissioner of New York City, and Frank S. Hogan, New York County District Attorney.

The publishers of "Screw," in their complaint filed August 18, 1969, charge that defendants, in May of 1969, "embarked upon a plan and series of acts the purpose and effect of which has been to suppress the public sale of several issues of subject tabloid newspaper and to deprive the public of its right to read the tabloid and now threatens to suspend completely the publication and dissemination of subject tabloid." Specifically, it is charged, plaintiffs Goldstein and Buckley were arrested in May and charged with violating New York Penal Law, McKinney's Consol.Laws, c. 40,

305 F. Supp. 290
§ 235.051 by promoting Issues No. 14 and No. 15 of "Screw." Thereafter, the complaint continues, the plaintiffs were advised by their counsel that "the only real basis to justify the arrests" was found in certain pictures, and they "proceeded in subsequent Issues to eliminate those pictures which apparently were deemed or appeared to be most objectionable."

Nevertheless, it is alleged, Goldstein and Buckley were arrested again on June 26, 1969, again on charges under § 235.05, because of their Issue No. 17. At the same time, "the distributor and several newsdealers" were arrested for promoting this issue. Moreover, plaintiffs charge, since May 21 "defendants, and particularly members of the Police Department, told, advised and threatened newsdealers and others that they would be arrested for selling any Issue of the publication Screw, including, of course, Issue No. 18 which was not subject to any process, civil or criminal."

As a result of these official actions, plaintiffs allege, sales of their Issues 18 and 19 have dropped from a former level of 75,000 to about 17,000. And this has happened, they say, even though "defendants * * * are or should be fully aware that Issues No. 17, 18, 19, 20 * * * did not and do not contain pictures falling within the definition of hard-core pornography, to wit: pictures showing a consummated sexual act."

The complaint goes on to allege "still further arrests" on August 15, 1969, for promoting Issues 22 through 24.

According to the complaint, defendants have been asked, but have refused, to employ alternative procedures, such as civil injunctions or informal advance consultations with plaintiffs, in lieu of criminal charges under the obscenity statute.

As a result of the acts alleged, plaintiffs say, their business is being destroyed and First Amendment freedoms are being chilled. Allegedly lacking any other adequate remedy, they seek (in addition to damages) injunctive and declaratory relief of kinds, and on grounds, more particularly stated below.

Plaintiffs in the second case, publishers of "The New York Review of Sex & Politics," plead a similar cause, with some variations. On June 20, 1969, they allege, plaintiff Heller, "among others," was charged with violating Penal Law § 235.05 on the basis of the "Review's" Issue No. 9. In addition to Heller, Alvin Druss, principal of a distributing company, and "a number of newsstand dealers" (not named) are alleged to have been arrested. Circulation of the "Review" has dropped from 40,000 to 30,000. 193 newsstands carried it before June 20, but the number has since decreased to about 75. It is alleged that Heller was arrested again on August 15, 1969, this time for Issue No. 12 of the "Review." On this occasion, it is alleged, "some 70 or less sic2 newsstand dealers, some of whom are blind, others who are handicapped and disabled," were also arrested. Unlike the complaint about "Screw," that concerning the "Review" makes much of the allegedly "tasteful" and otherwise valuable aspects of the publication, but this dubiety turns out to have little or no significance for purposes of the questions before us.

The alleged pattern of arrests, said to be pursued "recklessly and promiscuously," is assailed as an "effective prior restraint" forbidden by the Federal Constitution. Moreover, plaintiffs allege, with arrests being made before there has been an adversary ruling on obscenity, "defendants are acting in bad faith in that they are attempting to accomplish, and are in fact accomplishing,

305 F. Supp. 291
by extra judicial means what could not be achieved if the legal processes were followed." As in the companion case, plaintiffs connected with the "Review" seek both damages and injunctive relief

By motions returnable on September 16, 1969, both sets of plaintiffs have applied for relief pendente lite. While the motions are not identical, the sum total of the relief sought and the contentions raised by both may be outlined as follows:3

(1) Temporary injunctions are sought
(a) to forbid arrests unless there has first been an adversary hearing before a judicial officer to determine whether the publications in question are obscene;
(b) to require that defendants negotiate and "pinpoint" alleged qualities of obscenity before instituting criminal proceedings;
(c) to forbid threats of arrest or warnings by police officers to newsdealers that sale of the publications will or may lead to arrest.
(2) Declaratory rulings are requested invalidating N.Y. Penal Law § 235 in several respects hereinafter detailed.
(3) Likewise, a declaration is sought that §§ 148-150 of New York's Code of Criminal Procedure are unconstitutional facially and as applied because they assertedly allow suppression of publications as "contraband" without a prior adversary hearing, contrary to the claimed protections of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
(4) The convening of a three-judge court is urged—successfully, as this opinion indicates.

Defendants for their part have been permitted to cross-move for dismissal of the complaints, plaintiffs having waived the normal notice requirements.

In the papers filed for and against the motions, the broad outlines of the complaints are retraced, but with some notable modifications and additions. The alleged dates of arrests and the affected issues of the two publications are confirmed in the affidavits. The total of arrests appears to be sharply diminished; despite the bland assertion of undocumented numbers in plaintiffs' papers (with no detail and no ultimate weight even as affidavits go), we are able to find not more than 13 arrests for all affected issues of "Screw" and 5 for the affected issues of the "New York Review."

As against the complaint allegations that plaintiffs are being crushed by delayed vindication of their First Amendment rights, it has been shown without dispute that plaintiffs have acquiesced since May and June in the postponement of the pending state criminal proceedings. They have neglected during a summer and beyond to press for their right to speedy state adjudications or even to raise in the state courts the issues of constitutional law they want this court to decide.

Upon the foregoing facts, for reasons which follow, we have concluded that plaintiffs' motions must fail but that their complaints, if only narrowly, should survive defendants' motions to dismiss.

I

Assuming in plaintiffs' favor a negative answer to the question whether 28 U.S.C. § 22834 applies to cases like

305 F. Supp. 292
this one, cf. Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 484 n. 2, 85 S.Ct. 1116, 14 L.Ed. 2d 22 (1965); and see 208 Cinema, Inc. v. Vergari, 298 F.Supp. 1175, 1178 (S.D. N.Y. 1969), appeal pending, no sufficient case is made for an injunction. To begin with, plaintiffs' claim founders because they cannot show the extraordinary need required to justify such rare interferences with state criminal processes. Their heavy burden is to demonstrate that this is one of the "exceptional cases" where this kind of relief is essential "to prevent irreparable injury which is clear and imminent * * *." Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 163, 63 S.Ct. 877, 881, 87 L.Ed. 1324 (1943); and see cases collected in Richardson v. Dudley, 295 F.Supp. 181, 185 (S.D.N.Y.1969) (three-judge court). The burden is not met by plaintiffs such as these who have had an available state forum for their claims over a period of three or four months, have been entitled to speedy adjudications in that forum, Freedman v. Maryland, ...

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67 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Various Articles of Obscene Merchandise, Schedule No. 1769., No. 685
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • May 25, 1979
    ...is applied"); Kois v. Wisconsin, 408 U.S. 229, 231-32, 92 S.Ct. 2245, 33 L.Ed.2d 312 (1972); Milky Way Productions, Inc. v. Leary, 305 F.Supp. 288, 294-95 (S.D.N.Y.1969) (three judge court), Aff'd, 397 U.S. 98, 90 S.Ct. 817, 25 L.Ed.2d 78 (1970). Compare United States v. 31 Photographs, 156......
  • Bryers v. State, No. 44667
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • May 31, 1972
    ...In addition to the three tests of Memoirs before a finding of obscenity is permissible. . . .' Milky Way Productions, Inc. v. Leary, 305 F.Supp. 288, 294 (S.D.N.Y.1969) (3 judge court), aff'd, 397 U.S. 98, 90 S.Ct. 817, 25 L.Ed.2d 78 (1970) (per Finally, as for the contention that the logic......
  • 40 566 Allee v. Medrano 8212 1125, No. 72
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 20, 1974
    ...in the exercise of ancillary jurisdiction acquired as a result of a facial attack on a different but related state statute. D.C., 305 F.Supp. 288, 296 (SDNY). The part of the decree enjoining police misconduct is intimately bound up with and ancillary to the remainder of the court's judgmen......
  • People v. Heller
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • December 28, 1973
    ...610 with which we are primarily concerned, had consistently been held valid. A sampling of the cases includes Milky Way Prods. v. Leary, 305 F.Supp. 288 (S.D.N.Y., 1970) in which a three-Judge court, primarily concerned with whether there should be an adversary hearing before an arrest for ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
67 cases
  • U.S. v. Various Articles of Obscene Merchandise, Schedule No. 1769., No. 685
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • May 25, 1979
    ...is applied"); Kois v. Wisconsin, 408 U.S. 229, 231-32, 92 S.Ct. 2245, 33 L.Ed.2d 312 (1972); Milky Way Productions, Inc. v. Leary, 305 F.Supp. 288, 294-95 (S.D.N.Y.1969) (three judge court), Aff'd, 397 U.S. 98, 90 S.Ct. 817, 25 L.Ed.2d 78 (1970). Compare United States v. 31 Photographs, 156......
  • Bryers v. State, No. 44667
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • May 31, 1972
    ...In addition to the three tests of Memoirs before a finding of obscenity is permissible. . . .' Milky Way Productions, Inc. v. Leary, 305 F.Supp. 288, 294 (S.D.N.Y.1969) (3 judge court), aff'd, 397 U.S. 98, 90 S.Ct. 817, 25 L.Ed.2d 78 (1970) (per Finally, as for the contention that the logic......
  • 40 566 Allee v. Medrano 8212 1125, No. 72
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 20, 1974
    ...in the exercise of ancillary jurisdiction acquired as a result of a facial attack on a different but related state statute. D.C., 305 F.Supp. 288, 296 (SDNY). The part of the decree enjoining police misconduct is intimately bound up with and ancillary to the remainder of the court's judgmen......
  • People v. Heller
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • December 28, 1973
    ...610 with which we are primarily concerned, had consistently been held valid. A sampling of the cases includes Milky Way Prods. v. Leary, 305 F.Supp. 288 (S.D.N.Y., 1970) in which a three-Judge court, primarily concerned with whether there should be an adversary hearing before an arrest for ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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