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Houchins v. KQED

Significance, Freedom To Gather News, The Press Serves The Public, Impact, Talk Radio In The United States


Thomas L. Houchins, Sheriff of the County of Alameda, California


KQED, Inc.

Petitioner's Claim

That the news media has no special constitutional right of access to a county jail beyond that of the public to interview, photograph, and sound record inmates and the facility for publication and broadcasting purposes.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Kelvin H. Booty, Jr.

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

William Bennett Turner

Justices for the Court

Warren E. Burger (writing for the Court), William H. Rehnquist, Potter Stewart, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

William J. Brennan, Jr., Lewis F. Powell, Jr., John Paul Stevens (Harry A. Blackmun and Thurgood Marshall did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

26 June 1978


Upheld Houchins's claim and overturned and remanded [sent back] the two lower courts' findings that the news media has substantially unrestricted access rights to Alameda County Jail facilities.

Related Cases

  • Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233 (1936).
  • New York Times Company v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971).
  • Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972).
  • Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817 (1974).
  • Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589 (1978).
  • Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 501 U.S. 663 (1991).


First Amendment Center--Press, http://www.fac.org/press/press97.htm. Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980