Home » Articles » Case » Antitrust Laws and the First Amendment » Lorain Journal Co. v. United States (1951)

Written by , last updated on September 19, 2023

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The Supreme Court decision in Lorain Journal Co. v. United States, 342 U.S. 143 (1951), upheld an injunction against a newspaper publisher, finding that its conduct was an attempt to monopolize interstate commerce in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and not an illegal prior restraint infringing on the First Amendment freedom of the press.

 

Ohio newspaper denied advertising space to those who advertised on local radio station

The Journal, the only newspaper published in Lorain, Ohio, had attempted to deny advertising space to anyone who also advertised on a newly created radio station in the area.

 

The United States brought civil action against the publishers in the District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, alleging that the publishers were attempting to restrain and monopolize interstate commerce in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The district court did not issue a temporary injunction, but after the trial the court found that the publishers were indeed attempting a monopoly as charged. The court enjoined them from continuing the attempts, and the defendants appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

Supreme Court said punishing newspaper did not violate First Amendment

Writing for the seven-member majority, Justice Harold H. Burton argued that this conduct was an attempt to monopolize interstate commerce and that the newspaper’s attempt to force its own advertisers to boycott the radio station violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

 

The newspaper had no unqualified right to select its customers in cases where it was using this selection to drive a competing medium out of business. The injunction did not constitute an illegal “prior restraint” of publication but simply “applies to a publisher what the law applies to others.” Burton further upheld the injunction that the district court had issued as “reasonably consistent with the requirements of the case.”

 

Justices Tom C. Clark and Sherman Minton did not participate.

 

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