United States v. Limehouse, No. 513

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRANDEIS
Citation285 U.S. 424,76 L.Ed. 843,52 S.Ct. 412
Docket NumberNo. 513
Decision Date11 April 1932
PartiesUNITED STATES v. LIMEHOUSE

285 U.S. 424
52 S.Ct. 412
76 L.Ed. 843
UNITED STATES

v.

LIMEHOUSE.

No. 513.
Argued Feb. 25, 26, 1932.
Decided April 11, 1932.

Page 425

The Attorney General and Mr. Claude R. Branch, of Providence, R. I., for the United States.

Messrs. Wm. C. Wolfe, of Orangeburg, S. C., and John P. Grace, of Charleston, S. C., for appellee.

Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 211 of the Criminal Code (18 USCA § 334) declares unmailable 'every obscene, lewd, or lascivious, and every filthy book, pamphlet, picture, paper, letter, writing, print, or other publication of an indecent character'; and provides that 'whoever shall knowingly deposit, or cause to be deposited, for mailing or delivery' any such unmailable matter 'shall be fined not more than $5,000, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.'

Under this statute Limehouse was indicted in the federal court for Eastern South Carolina. The indictment contained thirty counts, each charging the unlawful deposit of 'a certain filthy letter and writing in a certain post office.' Each set forth verbatim a separate letter. The letters contained much foul language; charged the addressees or persons associated with them with sexual immorality, and in some cases charged miscegenation and similar practices. They were coarse, vulgar, disgusting, indecent; and unquestionably filthy within the popular meaning of that term. On the ground that no letter was obscene, lewd, or lascivious within the meaning given to those terms in Swearingen v. United States, 161 U. S. 446, 16 S. Ct. 562, 40 L. Ed. 765, the District Court sustained a demurrer and quashed the indictment. The case is here by direct appeal under the Criminal Appeals Act, as amended.1 We are of opinion that the judgment should be reversed.

Page 426

In Swearingen v. United States, decided in 1896, the indictment was under Revised Statutes, § 3893 (18 USCA § 334), which made unmailable only 'obscene, lewd, or lascivious' matter. This Court, being of opinion that those words should be given the meaning attributed to them at common law in prosecutions for criminal libel, directed that the judgment of conviction be reversed, because the language used was not 'calculated to corrupt and debauch the minds and morals of those into whose hands it might fall' and induce sexual immorality. 161 U. S. at page 451, 16 S. Ct. 562, 564, 40 L. Ed. 765. The indictment here under review contains no reference to 'obscene, lewd, or...

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31 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Simpson, No. 77-1108
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 30, 1977
    ...United States, 465 F.2d 282, 286 (7th Cir. 1972), and n.7, infra. 4 Compare, however, as to the word "filthy," United States v. Limehouse, 285 U.S. 424, 426-427, 52 S.Ct. 412, 76 L.Ed. 843 5 The legislative history is rather meager. Section 1464 originated as § 29 of the Radio Act, and was ......
  • Ginsberg v. State of New York, No. 47
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 22, 1968
    ...227 U.S. 427, 33 S.Ct. 383, 57 L.Ed. 583; Dysart v. United States, 272 U.S. 655, 47 S.Ct. 234, 71 L.Ed. 461; United States v. Limehouse, 285 U.S. 424, 52 S.Ct. 412, 76 L.Ed. 843. 5. See Appendix II to this opinion. 6. Reverend Fr. Juan de Castaniza of the 16th century explained those who de......
  • Manual Enterprises, Inc v. Day, No. 123
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1962
    ...of debts. 19 Cong.Rec. 2206, 6734, 7662 (1888). 17. But see also id., at 6733—6734. 18. 35 Stat. 1129. 19. See United States v. Limehouse, 285 U.S. 424, 52 S.Ct. 412, 76 L.Ed. 843. 20. (1) 18 U.S.C. § 1718, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1718, the criminal provision against mailing of matter libelous on its......
  • Brown v. Kingsley Books, Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • April 27, 1956
    ...457; Winters v. People of State of New York, supra, 333 U.S. 507, 510, 518, 520, 68 S.Ct. 665, 667, 671, 672; United States v. Limehouse, 285 U.S. 424, 52 S.Ct. 412, 76 L.Ed. 843; see, also, Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 571-572, 62 S.Ct. 766, 768-769, 86 L.Ed. 1031; N......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • U.S. v. Simpson, No. 77-1108
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 30, 1977
    ...United States, 465 F.2d 282, 286 (7th Cir. 1972), and n.7, infra. 4 Compare, however, as to the word "filthy," United States v. Limehouse, 285 U.S. 424, 426-427, 52 S.Ct. 412, 76 L.Ed. 843 5 The legislative history is rather meager. Section 1464 originated as § 29 of the Radio Act, and was ......
  • Ginsberg v. State of New York, No. 47
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 22, 1968
    ...227 U.S. 427, 33 S.Ct. 383, 57 L.Ed. 583; Dysart v. United States, 272 U.S. 655, 47 S.Ct. 234, 71 L.Ed. 461; United States v. Limehouse, 285 U.S. 424, 52 S.Ct. 412, 76 L.Ed. 843. 5. See Appendix II to this opinion. 6. Reverend Fr. Juan de Castaniza of the 16th century explained those who de......
  • Manual Enterprises, Inc v. Day, No. 123
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1962
    ...of debts. 19 Cong.Rec. 2206, 6734, 7662 (1888). 17. But see also id., at 6733—6734. 18. 35 Stat. 1129. 19. See United States v. Limehouse, 285 U.S. 424, 52 S.Ct. 412, 76 L.Ed. 843. 20. (1) 18 U.S.C. § 1718, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1718, the criminal provision against mailing of matter libelous on its......
  • Brown v. Kingsley Books, Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • April 27, 1956
    ...457; Winters v. People of State of New York, supra, 333 U.S. 507, 510, 518, 520, 68 S.Ct. 665, 667, 671, 672; United States v. Limehouse, 285 U.S. 424, 52 S.Ct. 412, 76 L.Ed. 843; see, also, Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 571-572, 62 S.Ct. 766, 768-769, 86 L.Ed. 1031; N......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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