ERZNOZNIK v. CITY OF JACKSONVILLE

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
73-1942
Petitioner 
Richard Erznoznik
Respondent 
City of Jacksonville
Advocates
(argued the cause for the appellant)
(argued the cause for the appellee)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

The University Drive-In Theater in Jacksonville, Florida had a screen that was visible from nearby public streets. The theater showed an R-rated film containing female nudity, which violated a Jacksonville city ordinance that prohibited the showing of films containing nudity if the film was visible from a public area. Richard Erznoznik, the theater’s manager, was charged with a Class C offense under the ordinance. He challenged the ordinance in Duval County Circuit Court, which upheld the statute. The District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, affirmed the decision. The Supreme Court of Florida denied certiorari.

Question 

Did Jacksonville’s ordinance violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Erznoznik, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

Yes. In a 6-3 decision, the Court struck down the Jacksonville ordinance. While individuals did have a right to not be exposed to offensive films, the ordinance singled out "some kinds of speech on the ground that they are more offensive than others," Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. wrote for the majority. Since the "offended viewer readily can avert his eyes" from the films shown, Jacksonville’s distinction between films with nudity and films without nudity was unconstitutional. Under Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, "government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content." The ordinance was "broader than permissible" in trying to protect children from exposure to nudity and "invalid" as an attempt to prevent traffic accidents. Justice William O. Douglas authored a concurring opinion.

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ERZNOZNIK v. CITY OF JACKSONVILLE. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 22 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1974/1974_73_1942>.
ERZNOZNIK v. CITY OF JACKSONVILLE, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1974/1974_73_1942 (last visited October 22, 2014).
"ERZNOZNIK v. CITY OF JACKSONVILLE," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 22, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1974/1974_73_1942.