The Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court of the judicial branch of the United States government. Many of the cases that make it to the supreme court are based on rights set forth by the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is comprised of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, and is what this nation was founded upon. The first of these amendments deals with freedoms given to the people, one of these freedoms being Freedom of the Press. This freedom gives organizations the right to print and publish what they want without being told what they can and can't publish by the government. There are of course restrictions to this such as "prior restraint" which is the government's right to censor material beforehand that it does not want published, because it would compromise national security (Bender, 136). Prior restraint was found unconstitutional in the Near v. Minnesota case of 1931. In this
case the court ruled that an injunction to stop publication of a newspaper with
objectionable material was an example of prior restraint and therefore unconstitutional (Bender, 136). This became known as the due process clause of the 14th
amendment to the constitution. Another part of Freedom of the Press is the right for people to be able to read books, and not have books removed from a public
place because certain people feel they are inappropriate (Cantwell, 34).
There are two cases that clearly show these two points, and how the Supreme Court used its power to solve them. One of these cases is New York Times Company v. United States in 1971 which is also k This case shows how the Supreme Court used its position as the top court to rule against the United States executive branch (Bender, 137). Another case is Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico in 1982. This case had to
do with book censorship in a public high school library by the school board of that school (Gold, 17).

The Supreme Court has had many cases dealing with free speech, and how the government has tried to prevent the people from seeing certain pieces of information. One such example of the Supreme Court dealing was the New York Times v. United States case which took place in 1971. This case was brought up by the United States after top secret documents from the Pentagon, known as the Pentagon Papers, were leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post (Bender, 132). These documents contained information about the military presence in Vietnam that the U.S. government felt was a risk to national security if known by its enemies, and therefore only 15 copies of these documents were produced. Daniel Ellsberg, was a high level Pentagon researcher who had legal access to the documents because he was involved in compiling and editing the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg made a photocopy of these documents and gave them to Neil Sheehan of the New York Times. Once the Times had these papers, they set a team of reporters to write
articles about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam based on the information contained in the documents. A short time later, the same Daniel Ellsberg gave parts of
the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post, and that paper wrote articles aboutnown as the Pentagon Papers case.
The federal government objected to the publication in daily newspapers of these documents which it had deemed top secret. The government claimed that distribution of the material in the Pentagon Papers would be damaging to the national security of the United States and to its soldiers in Vietnam. Therefore the government brought legal action against the New York Times and the Washington Post to stop them from publishing articles about this sensitive material (ACLU).


Representatives of the Times said the federal government's attempt to stop the publication of these articles about the Pentagon Papers was an example of
prior restraint. The Times contended that this would be a violation of freedom
of the press, which is guaranteed in the first Amendment. The federal government's side of the argument was that the publication of this top secret information would put the lives of soldiers in danger, and give assistance during wartime to enemies of the United States (Bender, 139).

This case was argued in front of the Supreme