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Leathers v. Medlock

499 U.S. 439 (1991)

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Leathers v. Medlock

United States Supreme Court

499 U.S. 439 (1991)

Facts

Arkansas’s Gross Receipts Act imposed a 4 percent tax generally applicable to receipts from the sale of personal property and services. Certain sales of goods and services were identified as exempt, including receipts from newspapers and magazines. Before 1987, neither cable television nor satellite television were subject to taxation. In 1987 Arkansas passed Act 188, which amended the Gross Receipts Act to impose taxes on cable television. This expansion subjected approximately 100 cable suppliers to the sales tax. Cable-television subscriber Daniel Medlock, cable-television operator Community Communications Co., and cable trade organization Arkansas Cable Television Association, Inc. (collectively, the cable-television representatives) (plaintiffs) filed a class-action suit in Arkansas state court challenging Act 188, arguing that it was unconstitutional to impose a sales tax on cable television while exempting or excluding satellite television, newspapers, and magazines. The court found that Act 188 was constitutional, and the cable-television representatives appealed. The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed, holding that cable and satellite television were part of the same medium and under the First Amendment a tax scheme could not subject members of the same medium to different taxes. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

Dissent (Marshall, J.)

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