Arkansas Writers' Project, Inc. v. Ragland, Commissioner of Revenue of Arkansas
Decided on Apr. 22, 1987; 480 US 221



I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Free speech, freedom of the press.

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does a state sale tax scheme that taxes general interest magazines, but exempts newspapers and religious, professional, trade, and sports journals, violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Appellant, the publisher of a general-interest magazine, challenged the constitutionality of a statute which exempted newspapers and certain classes of magazines from the state sales tax imposed on receipts from the sale of tangible personal property. Claiming that the statute, which differentiated between magazines based on their content, violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by arbitrarily burdening freedom of press, appellant sought injunctive relief from the Chancery Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas.

The Chancery Court granted relief, but the Arkansas Supreme Court, on appeal and subsequent petition for rehearing, reversed the Chancery Court."

On appeal, the US Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the State of Arizona et al. by Robert K. Corbin, Attorney General of Arizona, Anthony B. Ching, Solicitor General, Ian A. Macpherson, Brian McKay, Attorney General of Nevada, and Paul Bardacke, Attorney General of New Mexico; and for the State of Washington et al. by Kenneth O. Eikenberry, Attorney General of Washington, Timothy R. Malone, Assistant Attorney General, Bronson C. La Follette, Attorney General of Wisconsin, and John J. Kelly, Chief State's Attorney of Connecticut.

Roderick E. Walston, Supervising Deputy Attorney General of California, argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were John K. Van de Kamp, Attorney General, [480 U.S. 202, 204] Steve White, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Frederick R. Millar, Jr., Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Rudolph Corona, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, Gerald J. Geerlings, Peter H. Lyons, and Glenn R. Salter.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Chehalis Indian Tribe et al. by Henry J. Sockbeson and Stephen V. Quesenberry; for the Jicarilla Apache Tribe et al. by Alan R. Taradash; for the Oneida Indian Nation of New York by William W. Taylor III and Christine Nicholson; for the Pueblo of Sandia et al. by L. Lamar Parrish, Theodore W. Barudin, Michael D. Bustamante, and Scott E. Borg; for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians by Jerome L. Levine and David A. Lash; and for the Seminole Tribe of Florida et al. by Bruce S. Rogow.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the State of Minnesota by Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, and James M. Schoessler, Assistant Attorney General; for the Pueblo of Laguna et al. by W. Richard West, Jr., Thomas W. Fredericks, Rodney B. Lewis, Carol L. Barbero, John Bell, Rodney J. Edwards, and Art Bunce; and for the Tulalip Tribes of Washington et al. by Allen H. Sanders.

Glenn M. Feldman argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief were Barbara A. Karshmer and George Forman.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"A discriminatory tax on the press burdens rights protected by the First Amendment. In order to justify such differential taxation, the State must show that is regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.

Arkansas has advanced no compelling justification for selective, content-based taxation of certain magazines, and the tax is therefore invalid under the First Amendment."

The Arkansas Supreme Court's Judgment was reversed and remanded.

Justice Vote: 7 Pro vs. 2 Con

  • Marshall, T. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • White, B. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Blackmun, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Powell, L. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • O'Connor, S.D. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stevens, J.P. Pro (Joined majority opinion, Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Scalia, A. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the Arkansas Supreme Court's Judgment; the Supreme Court reversed and remanded in a 7-2 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.