Arcara v. Cloud Books, Inc.,
478 U.S. 697 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Arcara v. Cloud Books, Inc., 478 U.S. 697 (1986)

Arcara v. Cloud Books, Inc.

No. 85-437

Argued April 29, 1986

Decided July 7, 1986

478 U.S. 697


A New York statute authorizes closure of a building found to be a public health nuisance because it was being used as a place for prostitution and lewdness. After a county Deputy Sheriff's undercover investigation of respondents' "adult" bookstore disclosed that illicit sexual activities, including solicitation of prostitution, occurred on the premises, a civil complaint was filed against respondents seeking closure of the premises under the statute. Respondents answered by alleging, inter alia, that a closure would impermissibly interfere with their First Amendment right to sell books on the premises, and that the closure statute was not intended to apply to establishments other than houses of prostitution. The New York trial court denied respondents' motion for a summary judgment, holding that the statute applied to respondents. The Appellate Division affirmed. The New York Court of Appeals reversed on First Amendment grounds. Applying the test of United States v. O'Brien, 391 U. S. 367, for determining the validity of a statute regulating conduct that has an expressive element, the court held that the closure statute failed the part of the O'Brien test that requires the statute to be no broader than necessary to achieve its purpose, because the closure order was much broader than necessary to achieve the restriction against illicit sexual activities and because an injunction against continuing those activities could achieve the same effect without restricting respondents' bookselling activities.

Held: The First Amendment does not bar enforcement of the closure statute against respondents' bookstore. United States v. O'Brien, supra, has no relevance to a statute directed at imposing sanctions on nonexpressive activity, and the sexual activities carried on in this case manifest absolutely no element of protected expression. The closure statute is directed at unlawful conduct having nothing to do with books or other expressive activity. Bookselling on premises used for prostitution does not confer First Amendment coverage to defeat a statute aimed at penalizing and terminating illegal uses of premises. Pp. 478 U. S. 702-707.

65 N.Y.2d 324, 480 N.E.2d 1089, reversed.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR,

Page 478 U. S. 698

J., filed a concurring opinion, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 478 U. S. 708. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 478 U. S. 708.

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