Redrup v. New York - Wikipedia

Redrup v. New York
Argued October 10–11, 1966
Decided May 8, 1967
Full case nameRobert Redrup, Petitioners v. State of New York; William L. Austin, Petitioner v. State of Kentucky; Gent, et al., Appellants v. State of Arkansas
Citations386 U.S. 767 (more)
87 S. Ct. 1414; 18 L. Ed. 2d 515; 1967 U.S. LEXIS 1571
Written materials that were not sold to minors, or foisted on unwilling audiences were constitutionally protected.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
Tom C. Clark · John M. Harlan II
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Abe Fortas
Case opinions
Per curiam
DissentHarlan, joined by Clark

Redrup v. New York, 386 U.S. 767 (1967), was a May 8, 1967 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States,[1] widely regarded as the end of American censorship of written fiction. Robert Redrup was a Times Square newsstand clerk who sold two of William Hamling's Greenleaf Classics paperback pulp sex novels, Lust Pool and Shame Agent, to a plainclothes police officer. He was tried and convicted in 1965.

With financial backing from Hamling, Redrup appealed his case to the Supreme Court where his conviction was overturned by 7–2. The court's final ruling affirmed that written materials that were neither sold to minors nor foisted on unwilling audiences were constitutionally protected, thereby de facto ending American censorship of written material. After this decision, the Supreme Court systematically and summarily reversed, without further opinion, scores of obscenity rulings involving paperback sex books.


The Court's decision came at a time when the Justices were unable to agree upon a single, workable test regarding what would constitute obscenity. For example, Justice Stewart's belief that hard-core pornography should be covered by obscenity law, even if he was unable to state a clear definition for what exactly constituted "hard-core" material, was summed up with his notorious expression: "I know it when I see it."

Accordingly, the Court adopted a process by which each justice would review the material in question and determine, according to their own understanding, whether or not it constituted obscenity. [2] To do this, the Justices would gather in a conference room in the U.S. Supreme Court Building to watch the films being challenged by obscenity cases. [3] This process was referred to in lawyer's slang as "redrupping."[4]

Justices Douglas and Black did not attend these screenings; both men took an absolutist, anti-censorship approach towards the First Amendment and did not believe that any films should be banned.[5] Justice Burger also preferred not to go.[6] Justice Harlan, whose eyesight was deteriorating in old age, would sit closest to the screen in order to see the outlines of what was happening on-screen, and often required clerks or fellow Justices to describe the action.[7]

The "redrupping" era came to an end with the 1973 decision Miller v. California, which laid down the three-prong standard known as the Miller test for obscenity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Redrup v. New York, 386 U.S. 767 (1967).
  2. ^ Werhan, Keith (2004). Freedom of Speech: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 101. ISBN 0313319979. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  3. ^ Woodward, Bob; Armstrong, Scott (1979). The Bretheren. Simon & Schuster. p. 198. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  4. ^ "Books for Lawyers". ABA Journal: 492. April 1983. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  5. ^ Woodward, Bob; Armstrong, Scott (1979). The Bretheren. Simon & Schuster. p. 198. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  6. ^ Woodward, Bob; Armstrong, Scott (1979). The Bretheren. Simon & Schuster. p. 198. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  7. ^ Woodward, Bob; Armstrong, Scott (1979). The Bretheren. Simon & Schuster. p. 198. Retrieved 19 December 2019.

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. University of Utah. 44 (4): 1039–1054. doi:10.2307/448806. JSTOR 448806.
  • Kobylka, Joseph F. (1987). "A Court-Created Context for Group Litigation: Libertarian Groups and Obscenity". The Journal of Politics. Cambridge University Press. 49 (4): 1061–1078. doi:10.2307/2130784. JSTOR 2130784. S2CID 154570173.

External links[edit]