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Vance v. Universal Amusement Co.

United States Supreme Court
445 U.S. 308 (1980)


King Arts Theatre, Inc. (King) (plaintiff), owned an adults-only movie theater in Texas. King’s lease was terminated, because the county attorney intended to obtain an injunction and declare King a public nuisance for showing obscene motion pictures. Under a Texas statute, the distribution of obscene material was considered to be a public nuisance and could be enjoined by the state or a private citizen. After a lawsuit was filed, the trial judge could enter an ex parte temporary restraining order for up to 10 days. If the plaintiff could show that there was probable success on the merits, the trial judge could extend the temporary restraining order by granting a temporary injunction. A final determination of whether the material was obscene was not required for the temporary injunction. After a temporary injunction was granted, the case would be tried as any other civil case, and there was no provision to expedite a final adjudication of the obscenity issue. King filed suit in district court, seeking an injunction against action by the county attorney (defendant). The district court held that the Texas statute was a prior restraint on free speech in violation of the First Amendment. The court of appeals reversed and upheld the statute as applied to the exhibition of motion pictures, reasoning that a temporary injunction could only be granted after an initial determination of obscenity and was therefore not a prior restraint on speech, as obscene materials are not constitutionally protected. The court of appeals reversed again upon a rehearing, and the state appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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