Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
Coleman Young
American Mini Theatres, Inc.
(argued the cause for the petitioner)
(argued the cause for the respondents American Mini Theaters)
(argued the cause for the respondent Nortown Theatre Inc.)
Facts of the Case 

American Mini Theaters opened two theaters that showed adult movies in the city of Detroit. Two city ordinances enacted in 1972 prohibited the opening of adult theaters within 1,000 feet of other buildings with "regulated uses" or within 500 feet of any residential district. American Mini sued city officials challenging the ordinances on two grounds: that the ordinances imposed an undue burden on First Amendment rights and that ordinances violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. A federal district court ruled in favor of the city, a decision that was reversed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The appeals court concluded that the ordinances posed a prior restraint based on content and that the ordinances ran afoul of the Equal Protection Clause.


(1): Did Detroit's 1972 ordinances violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

(2): Did the ordinances qualify as a restriction on free speech in violation of the First Amendment?

Decision: 5 votes for Young, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

No and no. In a 5-4 opinion, the court reversed the Sixth Circuit and held that Detroit's ordinances were reasonable, and although erotic material could not be completely suppressed, Detroit had adequate reasons to restrict the distribution of such material. Justice John Paul Stevens doubted that Voltaire's observation – "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" – applied to pornographic films. This prompted a stinging rebuke from Justice Potter Stewart who maintained that the free expression is neither defined nor circumscribed by popular opinion.

Cite this Page
YOUNG v. AMERICAN MINI THEATRES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
YOUNG v. AMERICAN MINI THEATRES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"YOUNG v. AMERICAN MINI THEATRES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,