FREEDMAN v. MARYLAND
Maryland required that all films be submitted to a board of censors before being exhibited. The board could disapprove films that were obscene, debased or corrupted morals, or tended to incite crime. There was no time limit on the decision-making process. Ronald Freedman challenged the law as unconstitutional due to the procedures to obtain approval. He did not suggest that prior approval itself was unconstitutional.
Did the the Maryland law violate the freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment?
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly
The Court found the Maryland law to be invalid. The Court decision reflected a concern that the statute provides the danger of "unduly suppressing protected expression." The board was allowed overly broad licensing discretion with a lack of statutory provisions for judicial participation in the the procedure to prohibit a film. The Court established three guidelines as adequate safeguards to protect against the "undue inhibition of protected expression." These guidelines are to: (1) place the burden of proving the film is unprotected expression on the censors, (2) require judicial determination to impose a valid determination, and (3) require prompt determination "within a specified time period."