MEMOIRS v. MASSACHUSETTS
A special provision of Massachusetts law allowed the Attorney General to initiate legal proceedings against an "obscene" book, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. The book, also known as Fanny Hill, was written by John Cleland in about 1750. Massachusetts courts, despite the defenses put forward by the book's publisher and copyright holder, judged the work to be obscene.
Did the actions of Massachusetts violate the First Amendment?
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly
The Court held that the Massachusetts courts erred in finding Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure to be obscene. The Court, applying the test for obscenity established in Roth v. United States, held that the book was not "utterly without redeeming social value." The Court reaffirmed that books could not be deemed obscene unless they were unqualifiedly worthless, even if the books possessed prurient appeal and were "patently offensive."