The Burger Court (1969–86)

First Amendment

Which Supreme Court justice changed his mind on the obscenity question?

Justice William Brennan had authored many of the Court’s obscenity decisions, including Roth v. United States (1957) in which the Court declared that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment. However, Brennan dissented in Miller v. California and its companion case Paris Adult Theatre v. Slaton (1973). In his Paris Slaton dissent, Brennan said that he had changed his mind on the obscenity question: “I am convinced that the approach initiated 16 years ago in Roth v. United States (1957), and culminating in the Court’s decision today, cannot bring stability to this area of the law without jeopardizing fundamental First Amendment values, and I have concluded that the time has come to make a significant departure from that approach.”


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