Study Guide

Free Speech - Movie Day

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Movie Day

  • Since 1940s, Supreme Court struggled to define clear limits on restrictions of pornography and obscenity under the First Amendment
  • In 1964, Justice Potter Stewart defined obscenity vaguely: "I know it when I see it"

The guys were anxious to get started, but Thurgood was late and the others did not want to start without him. "Perhaps he's getting popcorn," someone suggested. When Thurgood arrived they agreed to start the first film, Vixen. John always sat in the front row. Seventy-four years old and all but blind, he could barely make out the outlines of the naked bodies on the screen. But someone described the action to him. "By Jove," he responded, "extraordinary."blank">Potter Stewart had struggled to define pornography, "but I know when I see it," he proclaimed. The other justices realized that they would need to develop a better definition if they were to credibly rule on pornography cases—and so movie day premiered.

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