Lee Art Theatre, Inc. v. Virginia, 392 U.S. 636 (1968)

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Author: Justice Harlan

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Lee Art Theatre, Inc. v. Virginia, 392 U.S. 636 (1968)

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, dissenting.

A police officer filed a sworn affidavit that he had personally witnessed the commission of a crime, to-wit, the possession and exhibition of obscene motion pictures. He was granted a warrant to seize the pictures, and did so.

In Marcus v. Search Warrant, 367 U.S. 717, officers were given a general warrant to seize obscene materials, pursuant to which they selected and seized 11,000 copies of 280 publications most of which were later found nonobscene. With barely a nod to the difference between 11,000 books and magazines selected for seizure by the officers themselves after a warrant had been issued and two obscene movies named in the affidavit, the Court reverses the present conviction on the authority of Marcus.

I think that Marcus was correctly decided, but I cannot discern its application here. Police officers may not be given carte blanche to seize, but they may certainly seize a specifically named item on probable cause, before the work, "taken as a whole," has been adjudicated obscene. Any other rule would make adjudication not merely "not as easily arrange[d]" in the case of movies, but quite impossible. If the Court means only that the officer should not merely say that he has seen a movie and considers it obscene, but should offer something in the way of a box score of what transpires therein, I consider it absurd to think that a magistrate, armed with the luminous guidance this Court has afforded, will be thus able to make a better judgment of probable obscenity.

Since the petitioner does not contend that the movies in question here were not obscene, I find it unnecessary to reach the point relied on by my Brothers BLACK, DOUGLAS, and STEWART.

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Chicago: Harlan, "Harlan, J., Dissenting," Lee Art Theatre, Inc. v. Virginia, 392 U.S. 636 (1968) in 392 U.S. 636 392 U.S. 638. Original Sources, accessed January 27, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PEG5G2HFMRSNIV.

MLA: Harlan. "Harlan, J., Dissenting." Lee Art Theatre, Inc. v. Virginia, 392 U.S. 636 (1968), in 392 U.S. 636, page 392 U.S. 638. Original Sources. 27 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PEG5G2HFMRSNIV.

Harvard: Harlan, 'Harlan, J., Dissenting' in Lee Art Theatre, Inc. v. Virginia, 392 U.S. 636 (1968). cited in 1968, 392 U.S. 636, pp.392 U.S. 638. Original Sources, retrieved 27 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PEG5G2HFMRSNIV.