KINGSLEY BOOKS, INC. v. BROWN
New York state law authorized the legal counsel for a municipality to seek an injunction against and the destruction of material deemed by the courts to be obscene. Peter Campbell Brown, Corporation Counsel for the City of New York, sought such an injunction against several bookstores. The process of review that followed was a civil, rather than criminal procedure, and the courts ultimately granted the injunction and sought to destroy the obscene material.
Did the civil procedure as laid out by New York statute violate the booksellers' rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by not allowing for a criminal trial before imposing an injunction and destroying the obscene material?
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly
No. In a 5–4 opinion authored by Justice Felix Frankfurter, the Court concluded that the civil procedure complied with the requirements of due process. Justice Frankfurter noted that the procedural safeguards were not significantly different from many state criminal misdemeanor procedures, nor were the penalties any more severe. The opinion also reaffirmed the existing notion that the constitutional protection of speech does not extend to obscene material.