100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.

Jay Near

Jay Near

Freedom of the Press

“Stories of Crime, Bloodshed, or Tales of Lust”

Near v. Minnesota

283 U.S. 697 (1931)

It has been said that many of the most famous litigants whose names appear on revered Supreme Court cases were some of the least respected persons in society. That is certainly true of Jay M. Near (1874–1936), the petitioner in Near v. Minnesota. He was an individual of questionable reputation as a journalist and an equally questionable reputation as a man. Yet, his battle to protect the press against prior restraint also makes him one of the most important figures in constitutional history.

Jay Near was a newspaperman from Fort Atkinson, Iowa. Near's job title denoted an occupation related to journalism, but many of Near's colleagues would have denied ...

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