Court Case: New York Times vs. Us

New York Times Company v. US (1971)

Summary: The New York Times and the Washington Post both published classified government information in their newspapers, later referred to as the Pentagon Papers. The government warned these newspapers about making public any more information and sought a restraining order against the Times, which it received, and was also extended to the Washington Post. The newspapers, objecting to this ruling, appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals, which granted a writ of certiorari. The New York Times and the Washington Post wanted the previous ruling to be reversed because they felt that the freedom of the press guaranteed in the First Amendment allowed them to publish the Pentagon Papers without punishment from the government, argued William R. Glendon. The United States, however, argued that the restraining orders were necessary in order to keep important government information confidential.

Issue: Is the right of free speech of the press more important than the government's need to keep certain documents secret? Should the Court allow the New York Times and the Washington Post to publish the Pentagon Papers?

Decision: Six of the nine Supreme Court Justices ruled in favor of the New York Times and the Washington Post, arguing that to do otherwise would run contradictory to the First Amendment and that the press must have its freedom in order to adequately fulfill its important job in our democracy. These justices felt that since the government was forbidden to make laws abridging freedom of the press, there was no possible way to justify the restraining orders issued. The three justices who dissented, one of whom was Chief Justice Warren Burger, felt that the newspapers could have reached an agreement with the government on what could be published, and also that it contradicted its claim that it was providing the people with important information because it waited three months to analyze the...
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