The Colonel's Finest Campaign: Robert R. McCormick and Near v. Minnesota
47 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2009
Date Written: March 2008
Today, media corporations and their professional and trade associations, along with organizations like Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Civil Liberties Union, carefully monitor litigation that implicates First Amendment values and decide whether, when, and how to intervene. It was not always so. Litigation by an institutional press to avoid or create doctrinal precedent under the First Amendment really began with the appointment of Col. Robert R. McCormick to head the ANPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press in the spring of 1928 and his involvement in Near v. Minnesota beginning that fall. Because of McCormick's intervention, Near's holding that prior restraints are anathema to the Constitution has been a bulwark of our legal system ever since.
Part I of this article briefly outlines the background of the Near case, while Part II discusses the role of incorporation in making a First Amendment challenge feasible. Part III traces McCormick's efforts to draw the institutional press into the Near litigation. Part IV covers the proceedings before the Supreme Court, while Part V describes the landmark opinion itself. Finally, Part VI discusses the aftermath of Near v. Minnesota and the mobilization of the institutional press.
Keywords: Near v. Minnesota, Supreme Court, First Amendment, newspapers, media, freedom of the press, Fourteenth Amendment
JEL Classification: K19, K39, L82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation