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Vance v. Universal Amusement Co., Inc., 445 U.S. 308 (1980)

Vance v. Universal Amusement Co., Inc.

No. 78-1588

Argued November 28, 1979

Decided March 18, 1980

445 U.S. 308


Held: A Texas public nuisance statute, construed as authorizing state judges, on the basis of a showing that a theater exhibited obscene films in the past, to enjoin its future exhibition of films not yet found to be obscene, is unconstitutional as authorizing an invalid prior restraint. The statute cannot be considered to be valid on the asserted ground that it constitutes no greater a prior restraint than any criminal statute, since presumably an exhibitor would be subject to contempt proceedings for violating a preliminary restraining order under the statute even if the film is ultimately found to be nonobscene, whereas nonobscenity would be a defense to any criminal prosecution. Nor is the statute saved merely because the temporary restraint is entered by a state trial judge, rather than an administrative censor. That a judge might be thought more likely than an administrative censor to determine accurately that a work is obscene does not change the unconstitutional character of the restraint if erroneously entered. Thus, the absence of any special safeguards governing the entry and review of orders restraining the exhibition of named or unnamed motion pictures, without regard to the context in which they are displayed, precludes the enforcement of the nuisance statute against motion picture exhibitors. Cf. Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U. S. 51; Southeastern Promotions, Ltd. v. Conrad, 420 U. S. 546.

587 F.2d 159, affirmed.

Page 445 U. S. 309

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