The Hughes Court (1930–41)

First Amendment

In what decision did the Hughes Court strike down a tax on newspapers?

The Hughes Court unanimously invalidated a Louisiana tax on newspapers with large circulations (more than 20,000 per week) in Grosjean v. American Press Co. (1936). In an opinion written by Justice George Sutherland, the Court noted that the tax applied only to the thirteen largest newspapers, twelve of which were opposed to the administration of the state’s governor, Huey Long. “The form in which the tax is imposed is in itself suspicious,” Sutherland wrote. “It is measured alone by the extent of the circulation of the publication in which the advertisements are carried, with the plain purpose of penalizing the publishers and curtailing the circulation of a selected group of publishers.” Sutherland compared the Louisiana law to policies of the British government, which were used to silence newspapers hostile to the government’s policies in colonial times.


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