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MCKINNEY V. ALABAMA, 424 U. S. 669 (1976)

U.S. Supreme Court

McKinney v. Alabama, 424 U.S. 669 (1976)

McKinney v. Alabama

No. 74-532

Argued December 15, 1975

Decided March 23, 1976

424 U.S. 669


Pursuant to an Alabama statutory procedure, a prosecuting attorney brought an in rem equity action in state court against four magazines named as "respondents," and two other parties, seeking an adjudication of the magazines' obscenity, which resulted in the court's decree that the magazines were "judicially declared to be obscene." Petitioner, a bookstall operator who had not been given notice of or made a party to the equity proceeding, was officially advised of the decree concerning the specific magazines. After officers later bought one of the magazines (New Directions) from petitioner's bookstall, he was charged with violating a criminal statute by selling "mailable matter known . . . to have been judicially found to be obscene." At petitioner's trial, which resulted in his conviction, later upheld on appeal, petitioner was not allowed to have the issue of New Direction's obscenity presented to the jurors, who were instructed that they were not to be concerned with determining obscenity, but only with whether or not petitioner had sold material judicially declared to be obscene.

Held: The Alabama procedures, insofar as they precluded petitioner from litigating the obscenity vel non of New Directions as a defense to his criminal prosecution, violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U. S. 51; Heller v. New York, 413 U. S. 483. The constitutional infirmity of those procedures cannot be avoided on the ground urged by the State that the equity action constituted an "adversary judicial proceeding," since the respondents in that action were not in privity with the petitioner, and cannot be presumed to have had interests sufficiently identical to petitioner's as adequately to protect his First Amendment rights, which he had a right to assert in his own behalf in a proceeding to which he was a party. Pp. 424 U. S. 673-676.

292 Ala. 484, 296 So.2d 228, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 424 U. S. 677. BRENNAN, J., filed a separate opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, and in

Page 424 U. S. 670

all but Part III of which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 424 U. S. 678. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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