Bridges v. California (1941)

The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1941, in Bridges v. California and Times-Mirror Co. v. Superior Court (the two appeals were decided together), that prior restraint of journalists, specifically pretrial coverage, is unconstitutional, unless there is a "clear and present danger to the administration of justice." The court went on to say that this clear and present danger standard was "a working principle that the substantive evil must be extremely serious and the degree of imminence extremely high before utterances can be punished."

Supreme Court In the case Bridges v. California , a telegram a union official had sent the U.S. Secretary of Labor was published in local newspapers in California. "In the telegram, sent while the ruling on a motion for a new trial in a labor dispute was pending, Harry Bridges threatened to have his union strike if the judge's 'outrageous' decision were enforced. The lower appellate courts upheld the leader's conviction for contempt as an interference with the 'orderly administration of justice' (Moore, p. 110)."

In the case Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court, the Los Angeles Times published a series of editorials while a decision was pending in the sentencing of two union members convicted of assaulting non-union employees. In the editorials the two were referred to as "sluggers for pay" and men "who commit mayhem for wages" and in the editorials it went on to say that the judge would be committing a "serious mistake" if he granted probation. At first, the paper was convicted for contempt, a decision which was upheld by both lower appellate courts as well as the California Supreme Court.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned these decisions on the grounds that no clear and present danger had been shown in either of the two cases.

Click here for the complete Supreme Court opinion.