Thomas Macdonald feature

Library of Congress: Thomas Macdonald Patterson, 1839-1916, bust portrait, facing left. Senator, Colorado

Patterson v. Colorado

By April 15, 1907

Patterson v. Colorado is the first free press case. The Supreme Court determines it does not have jurisdiction to review the “contempt” conviction of U.S. senator and Denver newspaper publisher Thomas Patterson for articles and a cartoon that criticized the state supreme court. The Court writes that “what constitutes contempt, as well as the time during which it may be committed, is a matter of local law.” Leaving undecided the question of whether First Amendment guarantees are applicable to the states via the 14th Amendment, the Court holds that the free speech and press guarantees only guard against prior restraint and do not prevent “subsequent punishment.”


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