The Warren Court (1953–69)

Freedom of Expression

In what decision did the Court rule against a state motion picture censorship law for failing to provide prompt judicial review?

The Warren Court invalidated a Maryland motion picture censorship law in Freedman v. Maryland (1965). The law required motion picture distributors to submit their movies for approval before they could be released. If the board rejected the film, then the distributor bore the costs of a time-consuming appeal. There was no guarantee that the Court would issue a decision in a timely manner. The Warren Court believed this state motion picture law constituted an invalid prior restraint on expression. The Court established certain procedural safeguards that had to be followed, including that the government censor bears the burden of proof that the film is not protected by the First Amendment and that the licensing scheme must assure a “prompt final judicial decision.”


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