Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233; 56 S. Ct. 444; 80 L. Ed. 660 (1936)

Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233; 56 S. Ct. 444; 80 L. Ed. 660 (1936)

Facts—A group of newspapers in the state of Louisiana brought suit to prevent enforcement of a statute levying a 2 percent gross receipts tax on them. The statute levied a tax only on newspapers having a circulation of 20,000 copies per week, making it applicable to only thirteen newspapers. Only one of these was not openly opposed to Senator Huey P. Long, who had influenced the passage of the law.

Question—Does the Louisiana statute taxing newspapers above a certain circulation abridge the freedom of the press, being contrary to the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?


ReasonsJ. Sutherland (9–0). Sutherland dealt at length with the various attempts in the history of the British government to tax newspapers. Inevitably such a tax produced two results, a hampering of the circulation, and more or less resistance on the part of citizens. The tax imposed by this statute was not one for the purpose of supporting the government, but a tax to limit the circulation of information to the public, which circulation is necessary for a free people and a free government. Even the form of this tax was suspicious, being based solely upon the amount of circulation.

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