Smith v. Daily Mail Pub. Co.,
443 U.S. 97 (1979)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Smith v. Daily Mail Pub. Co., 443 U.S. 97 (1979)

Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co.

No. 78-482

Argued March 20, 1979

Decided June 26, 1979

443 U.S. 97


Respondent newspapers published articles containing the name of a juvenile who had been arrested for allegedly killing another youth. Respondents learned of the event and the name of the alleged assailant by monitoring the police band radio frequency and by asking various eyewitnesses. Respondents were indicted for violating a West Virginia statute which makes it a crime for a newspaper to publish, without the written approval of the juvenile court, the name of any youth charged as a juvenile offender. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals granted a writ of prohibition against petitioners, the prosecuting attorney and the Circuit Judges of Kanawha County, W.Va., holding that the statute on which the indictment was based violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Held: The State cannot, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, punish the truthful publication of an alleged juvenile delinquent's name lawfully obtained by a newspaper. The asserted state interest in protecting the anonymity of the juvenile offender to further his rehabilitation cannot justify the statute's imposition of criminal sanctions for publication of a juvenile's name lawfully obtained. Pp. 443 U. S. 101-106.

(a) Whether the statute is viewed as a prior restraint by authorizing the juvenile judge to permit publication or as a penal sanction for publishing lawfully obtained, truthful information is not dispositive, because even the latter action requires the highest form of state interest to sustain its validity. When a state attempts to punish publication after the event, it must demonstrate that its punitive action was necessary to further the state interests asserted. Landmark Communications, Inc. v. Virginia, 435 U. S. 829. Pp. 443 U. S. 101-104.

(b) Respondents' First Amendment rights prevail over the State's interest in protecting juveniles. Cf. Davis v. Alaska, 415 U. S. 308. Even assuming that the statute served a state interest of the highest order, the statute does not accomplish its stated purpose, since it does not restrict the electronic media or any form of publication except "newspapers." Pp. 443 U. S. 104-105.

___ W.Va. ___, 248 S.E.2d 269, affirmed.

Page 443 U. S. 98

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 443 U. S. 106. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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