United States v. Reidel/Dissent Marshall
|United States v. Reidel by
United States Supreme Court
UNITED STATES v. REIDEL
Argued: Jan. 20, 1971. --- Decided: May 3, 1971
Mr. Justice MARSHALL, dissenting in No. 133 and concurring in the judgment in No. 534.
Only two years ago in Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 89 S.Ct. 1243, 22 L.Ed.2d 542 (1969), the Court fully canvassed the range of state interests that might possibly justify regulation of obscenity. That decision refused to legitimize the argument that obscene materials could be outlawed because the materials might somehow encourage antisocial conduct, and unequivocally rejected the outlandish notion that the State may police the thoughts of its citizenry. The Court did, however, approve the validity or regulatory action taken to protect children and unwilling adults from exposure to materials deemed to be obscene. The need for such protection of course arises when obscenity is distributed or displayed publicly; and the Court reaffirmed the principles of Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476, 77 S.Ct. 1304, 1 L.Ed.2d 1498 (1957), Redrup v. New York, 386 U.S. 767 (1967), and other decisions that involved the commercial distribution of obscene materials. Thus, Stanley turned on an assessment of which state interests may legitimately underpin governmental action, and it is disingenuous to contend that Stanley's conviction was reversed because his home, rather than his person or luggage, was the locus of a search.
I would employ a similar adjudicative approach in deciding the cases presently before the Court. In No. 133 the material in question was seized from claimant's luggage upon his return to the United States from a European trip. Although claimant stipulated that he intended to use some of the photographs to illustrate a book which would be later distributed commercially, the seized items were then in his purely private possession and threatened neither children nor anyone else. In my view, the Government has ample opportunity to protect its valid interests if and when commercial distribution should take place. Since threats to these interests arise in the context of public or commercial distribution, the magnitude of the threats can best be assessed when distribution actually occurs; and it is always possible that claimant might include only some of the photographs in the final commercial product or might later abandon his intention to use any of them. [*] I find particularly troubling the plurality's suggestion that there is no need to scrutinize the Government's behavior because a 'border search' is involved. While necessity may dictate some diminution of traditional constitutional safeguards at our National's borders, I should have thought that any such reduction would heighten the need jealously to protect those liberties that remain rather than justify the suspension of any and all safeguards.
No. 534 presents a different situation in which allegedly obscene materials were distributed through the mails. Plainly, any such mail order distribution poses the danger that obscenity will be sent to children, and although the appellee in No. 534 indicated his intent to sell only to adults who requested his wares, the sole safeguard designed to prevent the receipt of his merchandise by minors was his requirement that buyers declare their age. While the record does not reveal that any children actually received appellee's materials, I believe that distributors of purportedly obscene merchandise may be required to take more stringent steps to guard against possible receipt by minors. This case comes to us without the benefit of a full trial, and, on this sparse record, I am not prepared to find that appellee's conduct was not within a constitutionally valid construction of the federal statute.
Accordingly, I dissent in No. 133 and concur in the judgment in No. 534.
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).|