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U.S. Supreme Court

Milwaukee Social Democratic Pub. Co. v. Burleson, 255 U.S. 407 (1921)

Milwaukee Social Democratic Publishing Company v. Burleson

No. 166

Argued January 18, 19, 1921

Decided March 7, 1921

255 U.S. 407


1. The provision of the Espionage Law (Act of June 15, 1917, c. 30, Title XII, 3, 40 Stat. 217) which denies the mails to newspapers and other publications violating its prohibitions was within the power of Congress. P. 255 U. S. 409.

2. The second-class mail privilege, previously granted for a newspaper, was revoked by the Postmaster General, upon due notice and hearing, because, from the time the United States entered the World War to the time of the revocation, the paper frequently and persistently printed articles conveying false reports and false statements with intent to promote the success of the enemies of the United States and constituting a willful attempt to cause disloyalty and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces and to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service. Held that the procedure satisfied due process of law, p. 255 U. S. 409; that the publication was clearly violative of § 3 of the Espionage Law, p. 255 U. S. 413; that the order did not deprive the publisher of constitutional rights of free speech, or free press, or of property without due process of law, and was amply justified by the evidence. Pp. 255 U. S. 409, 255 U. S. 415.

3. The conclusion of a head of an executive department upon a matter of fact within his jurisdiction will not be disturbed by the courts unless clearly wrong. P. 255 U. S. 413.

4. By long executive practice, admission to the second-class mail privilege is obtained for a publication only by a permit, issued by the Postmaster General, after a hearing and upon a showing satisfactory to him or his authorized assistants, that it contains and will continue to contain only mailable matter and that it will meet the other requirements of the law. Pp. 255 U. S. 410, 255 U. S. 415.

5. The power of the Postmaster General to revoke the privilege is an incident of the power to grant it, recognized by Congress (31 Stat. 1107) and by decisions of this Court. Pp. 255 U. S. 411, 255 U. S. 415. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 255 U. S. 408

6. When a newspaper which has been admitted to the second class privilege publishes nonmailable matter so frequently as to justify the presumption that it will continue to do so, the Postmaster General is empowered (Rev.Stats., § 36) to revoke the privilege not merely as to particular issue containing such matter, but indefinitely for the future, subject to the publisher's right to secure a renewal upon proper application and proof that the paper will conform to the law. P. 255 U. S. 416.

4 App.D.C. 26, 258 F.2d 2, affirmed.

Error to review a judgment of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia which affirmed a judgment of the Supreme Court of the District dismissing the relator's petition for a writ of mandamus against the Postmaster General. The facts appear in the opinion of the Court.

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