Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton - Wikisource, the free online library

Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton  (1973) 

Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, 413 U.S. 49 (1973) is a United States Supreme Court decision in which the Court upheld a state court's injunction against the showing of obscene films in a movie theatre restricted to consenting adults. The Court distinguished the case from Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557 (1969), saying that the privacy of the home that was controlling in Stanley was not present in the commercial exhibition of obscene movies in a theatre.

Court Documents
Dissenting Opinions

Supreme Court of the United States

413 U.S. 49

Paris Adult Theatre I  v.  Slaton

Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Georgia

No. 71-1051  Argued: October 19, 1972 --- Decided: June 21, 1973

Respondents sued under Georgia civil law to enjoin the exhibiting by petitioners of two allegedly obscene films. There was no prior restraint. In a jury-waived trial, the trial court (which did not require "expert" affirmative evidence of obscenity) viewed the films and thereafter dismissed the complaints on the ground that the display of the films in commercial theaters to consenting adult audiences (reasonable precautions having been taken to exclude minors) was "constitutionally permissible." The Georgia Supreme Court reversed, holding that the films constituted "hard core" pornography not within the protection of the First Amendment. Held:

1. Obscene material is not speech entitled to First Amendment protection. Miller v. California, ante, p. 15; Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476. P. 54.

2. The Georgia civil procedure followed here (assuming use of a constitutionally acceptable standard for determining what is unprotected by the First Amendment) comported with the standards of Teitel Film Corp. v. Cusack, 390 U.S. 139; Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51; and Kingsley Books, Inc. v. Brown, 354 U.S. 436. Pp. 54-55.

3. It was not error to fail to require expert affirmative evidence of the films' obscenity, since the films (which were the best evidence of what they depicted) were themselves placed in evidence. P. 56.

4. States have a legitimate interest in regulating commerce in obscene material and its exhibition in places of public accommodation, including "adult" theaters. Pp. 57-69.

(a) There is a proper state concern with safeguarding against crime and the other arguably ill effects of obscenity by prohibiting the public or commercial exhibition of obscene material. Though conclusive proof is lacking, the States may reasonably determine that a nexus does or might exist between antisocial behavior and obscene material, just as States have acted on unprovable assumptions in other areas of public control. Pp. 57-63.

(b) Though States are free to adopt a laissez-faire policy toward commercialized obscenity, they are not constitutionally obliged to do so. P. 64.

(c) Exhibition of obscene material in places of public accommodation is not protected by any constitutional doctrine of privacy. A commercial theater cannot be equated with a private home; nor is there here a privacy right arising from a special relationship, such as marriage. Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557; Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 , distinguished. Nor can the privacy of the home be equated with a "zone" of "privacy" that follows a consumer of obscene materials wherever he goes. United States v. Orito, post, p. 139; United States v. 12 200-ft. Reels of Film, post, p. 123. Pp. 65-67.

(d) Preventing the unlimited display of obscene material is not thought control. Pp. 67-68.

(e) Not all conduct directly involving "consenting adults" only has a claim to constitutional protection. Pp. 68-69.

5. The Georgia obscenity laws involved herein should now be re-evaluated in the light of the First Amendment standards newly enunciated by the Court in Miller v. California, ante, p. 15. Pp. 69-70.

228 Ga. 343, 185 S.E.2d 768, vacated and remanded.

Burger, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which White, Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist joined. Douglas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 70. Brennan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stewart and Marshall, JJ., joined, post, p. 73.

Robert Eugene Smith argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the brief were Mel S. Friedman and D. Freeman Hutton.

Thomas E. Moran argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief was Joel M. Feldman.[1]


  1. . Charles H. Keating, Jr., pro se, Richard M. Bertsch, James J. Clancy, and Albert S. Johnston III filed a brief for Charles H. Keating, Jr., as amicus curiae urging affirmance.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).