Kaplan v. California
413 U.S. 115 (1973)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Kaplan v. California, 413 U.S. 115 (1973)

Kaplan v. California

No. 71-1422

Argued October 19, 1972

Decided June 21, 1973

413 U.S. 115

Syllabus

Petitioner, a proprietor of an "adult" bookstore, was convicted of violating a California obscenity statute by selling a plain-covered unillustrated book containing repetitively descriptive material of an explicitly sexual nature. Both sides offered testimony as to the nature and content of the book, but there was no "expert" testimony that the book was "utterly without redeeming social importance." The trial court used a state community standard in applying and construing the statute. The appellate court, affirming, held that the book was not protected by the First Amendment.

Held:

1. Obscene material in book form is not entitled to First Amendment protection merely because it has no pictorial content. A State may control commerce in such a book, even distribution to consenting adults, to avoid the deleterious consequences it can reasonably conclude (conclusive proof is not required) result from the continuing circulation of obscene literature. See Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, ante p. 413 U. S. 49. Pp. 413 U. S. 118-120.

2. Appraisal of the nature of the book by "the contemporary community standards of the State of California" was an adequate basis for establishing whether the book here involved was obscene. See Miller v. California, ante, p. 413 U. S. 15. P. 413 U. S. 121.

3. When, as in this case, material is itself placed in evidence, "expert" state testimony as to its allegedly obscene nature, or other ancillary evidence of obscenity, is not constitutionally required. Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, supra. P. 413 U. S. 121.

4. The case is vacated and remanded so that the state appellate court can determine whether the state obscenity statute satisfies the constitutional standards newly enunciated in Miller, supra. P. 413 U. S. 122.

23 Cal.App.3d Supp. 9, 100 Cal.Rptr. 372, vacated and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., would vacate and remand for dismissal of the criminal complaint, post, p. 413 U. S. 122. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 413 U. S. 122.

Page 413 U. S. 116

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