New York Times v. The United States (1971)


NewYork Times v. The United States (1971)

Inthe NewYork Times v. the United Statescase, Timeshad obtained 7000-page research concerning the United States militaryintervention in Vietnam from the Department of Defense. The papersprovided to the Timesrevealed a lot of the United States military errors as well ascover-ups in the Vietnam War. The Timesmade an analysis of the document and wrote a series of articles in1971 concerning the revelations (Herda, 2011). The White Houseapplied for a court injunction to stop the Timesfrom publishing more of the revelations, and the court offered aninjunction. However, the Times sued the government. The court ruledin favor of the Timesdue to the reasoning that the freedom of the press was not to beabridged in the matter (Herda, 2011). From the court’s ruling,there is a question whether the court’s decision was right orwrong. In this assignment, an argument would be made to support theidea that the court’s decision was right.

TheConstitution is of immense significance to the American societyhowever, it can be interpreted using different theories. The theoriesthat can be used are the living document and the originalist theory.The primary difference amid the two theories is that the originalisttheory perceives the Constitution as a document which is set in stoneand cannot be changed. In originalist’s perspective, theconstitution is supposed to be interpreted in a manner that mirrorsthe views of the writers (Balkin, 2011). Alternatively, the livingdocument theory is grounded on the view that the Constitution needsto grow along with the society and the changing values andperceptions that the society holds (Balkin, 2011).

Byusing both theories, I hold to the opinion that the court made theright decision in the case. From the originalist theory, it isapparent that the Constitution needs to be interpreted in a way thatreflects the original views of the writers. From the case, there wasa violation of the First Amendment because the government wanted todeny the New York Times the right of providing information. It can beargued that the writers of the Constitution had the view that thefundamental rights should be respected at all times. Thus, in thecase, the court made the right decision in defending the fundamentalrights of the press.

Alternatively,through using the living document theory, it can be argued that thecourt has to protect the fundamental law provided in the FirstAmendment. As society changes, it is important to protect thefundamental law since abusing it may result in an endangeredsociety. In the case, the court was to rule whether security was tobe used in abrogating the fundamental law provided in the FirstAmendment. Because it is important to protect the fundamental law,the court made the right decision in the case based on the livingdocument theory.

Inconclusion, from the analysis of the NewYork Times v. the United Statescase, it can be argued that the court made the right decision basedon either the living document theory or the originalist theory. Thisis because the court made a decision that interpreted theConstitution in a manner that supports or mirrors the writers of theConstitution and that which is in line with the laws of a changingsociety, where the fundamental law needs to be guarded.


Balkin,J. M. (2011). Livingoriginalism.Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Herda,D. J. (2011). NewYork Times v. United States: National security and censorship.Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers.