Jacobellis v. Ohio/Concurrence Stewart

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Justice Stewart's concurrence is perhaps the most famous judicial opinion dealing with obscenity, best known for the quotation, "I know it when I see it."

Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Concurring Opinions
Dissenting Opinions

MR. JUSTICE STEWART, concurring.

It is possible to read the Court's opinion in Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California, 354 U.S. 476, in a variety of ways. In saying this, I imply no criticism of the Court, which, in those cases, was faced with the task of trying to define what may be indefinable. I have reached the conclusion, which I think is confirmed at least by negative implication in the Court's decisions since Roth and Alberts, [1] that, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. [2] I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.


^ . Times Film Corp. v. City of Chicago, 355 U.S. 35, reversing 244 F.2d 432; One, Incorporated, v. Olesen, 355 U.S. 371, reversing 241 F.2d 772; Sunshine Book Co. v. Summerfield, 355 U.S. 372, reversing 101 U.S.App.D.C. 358, 249 F.2d 114; Manual Enterprises v. Day, 370 U.S. 478 (opinion of HARLAN, J).

^ . Cf. People v. Richmond County News, 9 N.Y.2d 578, 175 N.E.2d 681, 216 N.Y.S.2d 369.