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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Southeastern Promotions, Ltd.
Steve Conrad et al.
(argued the cause for the petitioner)
(argued the cause for the respondents)
Facts of the Case 

Southeastern Promotions was a theatrical production company that requested to use the Tivoli Theater in Chattanooga, Tennessee to present the musical "Hair." "Hair" was a controversial musical that contained obscenities and nudity. The Tivoli was privately owned, but was leased to the city of Chattanooga. The city rejected Southeastern's request based on the controversial content in the production. Southeastern challenged the decision in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, alleging that Chattanooga's denial of its request violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment. The District Court ruled for Chattanooga and found that the musical contained obscene content that was not constitutionally protected. The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed that decision.


Was Chattanooga's denial of Southeastern's request in violation of the free speech clause of the First Amendment?

Decision: 6 votes for Southeastern Promotions, Ltd., 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

Yes. In a 6-3 opinion, the Court reversed the Sixth Circuit and held that Chattanooga's denial of the Southeastern's request was a "prior restraint," an attempt to censor speech and prevent it from reaching the public. Justice Harry A. Blackmun, writing for the majority, stated that though prior restraints were not necessarily unconstitutional, "the risks of freewheeling censorship are formidable." Chattanooga's "procedural safeguards were lacking" in dealing with those risks and placed the burden on Southeastern to ensure that the musical could be produced. This was inconsistent with Freedman v. Maryland, and therefore unconstitutional. Justice William O. Douglas dissented in part and concurred in the result in part.

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SOUTHEASTERN PROMOTIONS, LTD. v. CONRAD. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 04 June 2015. <>.
SOUTHEASTERN PROMOTIONS, LTD. v. CONRAD, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited June 4, 2015).
"SOUTHEASTERN PROMOTIONS, LTD. v. CONRAD," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 4, 2015,