Constitutional Law – Due Process – Validity of Refusal to Permit the Showing of a Motion Picture on the Grounds of Obscenity

A Chicago municipal ordinance made it unlawful to exhibit any motion picture without first having secured a permit from the Commissioner of Police. The commissioner is required to issue the permit unless he finds the picture “immoral or obscene. . .. ” On these grounds he refused to permit exhibition of “The Miracle.” Plaintiffs brought suit to have the ordinance declared unconstitutional and to restrain enforcement of the prohibition on the picture. The trial court granted the relief asked. On appeal, held, reversed and remanded to determine if the motion picture is obscene. A prior restraint on the exhibition of obscene motion pictures does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. However, in determining whether the picture is obscene, the state has the burden of showing affirmatively that the dominant effect of the film, when considered as a whole, is substantially to arouse sexual desires, and that the probability of this effect outweighs whatever merits the film may possess. American Civil Liberties Union v. Chicago, 3 Ill. (2d) 334, 121 N. E. (2d) 585 (1954), appeal dismissed for want of a final judgment, 75 S. Ct 572 (1955).