1975 October 22

Nebraska Judge Bars Press Coverage, Makes First Amendment History


Erwin Charles Simants was arrested and prosecuted for a particularly grisly murder in Nebraska. Judge Hugh Stuart in Lincoln County, Nebraska, on this day imposed a restrictive order that prohibited the media from reporting information that would be “strongly implicative” of the defendant’s guilt. The judge’s order was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down the order as a prior restraint in violation of the Freedom of the Press clause of the First Amendment. See Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart on June 30, 1976.

The Supreme Court: “The problems presented by this case are almost as old as the Republic. Neither in the Constitution nor in contemporaneous writings do we find that the conflict between these two important rights was anticipated, yet it is inconceivable that the authors of the Constitution were unaware of the potential conflicts between the right to an unbiased jury and the guarantee of freedom of the press. . .

“. . . prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

Learn more about Freedom of the Press: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/press

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