Kois v. Wisconsin - Wikipedia

Kois v. Wisconsin
Decided June 26, 1972
Full case nameJohn Kois v. Wisconsin
Citations408 U.S. 229 (more)
92 S. Ct. 2245; 33 L. Ed. 2d 312
Case history
PriorConviction upheld, 51 Wis.2d 668, 188 N.W.2d 467 (1971)
Nude photographs illustrating a newspaper article they accompany and to which they are rationally related are entitled to freedom of the press protection as incorporated against the states via the Fourteenth Amendment. Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed and remanded.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William O. Douglas · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Lewis F. Powell Jr. · William Rehnquist
Case opinions
Per curiam

Kois v. Wisconsin, 408 U.S. 229 (1972), was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of the obscenity conviction of Milwaukee editor-publisher John Kois, whose underground newspaper Kaleidoscope had published two small photographs of pictures of nudes and a sexually-oriented poem entitled "Sex Poem" in 1968.[1] The Supreme Court ruled that, in the context in which they appeared, the photographs were rationally related to a news article which they illustrated and were thus entitled to Fourteenth Amendment protection, and that the poem "bears some of the earmarks of an attempt at serious art" (whether successful or not), and thus was not obscene under the Roth v. United States test ("whether or not the 'dominant' theme of the material appeals to prurient interest"). In the words of the concurring opinion of Justice William O. Douglas, "In this case, the vague umbrella of obscenity laws was used in an attempt to run a radical newspaper out of business and to impose a two-year sentence and a $2,000 fine upon its publisher. If obscenity laws continue in this uneven and uncertain enforcement, then the vehicle has been found for the suppression of any unpopular tract. The guarantee of free expression will thus be diluted and in its stead public discourse will only embrace that which has the approval of five members of this Court."[2]

As alluded to in Justice Douglas' opinion, by this time Kaleidoscope had already been driven out of business.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kaleidoscope vol. 1, no. 20, pp. 16-17
  2. ^ Kois v. Wisconsin, 408 U.S. 229 (1972).

Further reading[edit]

  • Hagle, Timothy M. (1991). "But Do They Have to See It to Know It? The Supreme Court's Obscenity and Pornography Decisions". The Western Political Quarterly. The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4. 44 (4): 1039–1054. doi:10.2307/448806. JSTOR 448806.

External links[edit]