Lamont v. Postmaster General

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Lamont v. Postmaster General
Argued April 26, 1965
Decided May 24, 1965
Full case nameCorliss Lamont, dba Basic Pamphlets, Appellant v. Postmaster General of the United States
Citations381 U.S. 301 (more)
85 S.Ct. 1493; 14 L. Ed. 2d 398; 1965 U.S. LEXIS 2286
Case history
Prior229 F. Supp. 913 (S.D.N.Y. 1964); probable jurisdiction noted, 379 U.S. 926 (1964).
The Postal Service and Federal Employees Salary Act is unconstitutional since it imposes on addressees an affirmative obligation that amounts to an unconstitutional limitation of their rights under the First Amendment.
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 · Arthur Goldberg
Case opinions
ConcurrenceBrennan, joined by Goldberg
White took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I

Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965), was a landmark First Amendment Supreme Court case, in which the ruling of the Supreme Court struck down § 305(a) of the Postal Service and Federal Employees Salary Act of 1962, a federal statute requiring the Postmaster General to detain and deliver only upon the addressee's request unsealed foreign mailings of "communist political propaganda."[1]


39 U.S.C. 4008 (1964) required the U.S. Postmaster General to detain and not deliver "communist political propaganda," unless a recipient affirmatively indicated their consent to receive such materials through the mail. Dr. Corliss Lamont had a copy of the Peking Review detained and declined to respond to the government's inquiry as to whether he wished to receive the delivery. Lamont subsequently filed suit alleging that Section 4008 violated his 1st Amendment and 5th Amendment rights.

Opinion of the court[edit]

The Court held:

the Act, as construed and applied, is unconstitutional, since it imposes on the addressee an affirmative obligation which amounts to an unconstitutional limitation of his rights under the First Amendment.[1]

The Court was unanimous in the judgment (8-0, with Justice White recused). Justice Brennan wrote a concurring opinion (which Justice Goldberg joined) and Justice Harlan also wrote a concurring opinion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965).

Further reading[edit]

  • Sigler, Jay A. (1965). "Freedom of the Mails: A Developing Right". Georgetown Law Journal. 54: 30.

External links[edit]