Skip to content

School wins right to display controversial tobacco documents

Post categories

  1. Prior Restraint
School wins right to display controversial tobacco documents07/17/95 CALIFORNIA--The University of California at San Francisco may display tobacco industry research…


CALIFORNIA–The University of California at San Francisco may display tobacco industry research documents to the public after the California Supreme Court denied a Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company request to extend a temporary restraining order against the university in late June.

The documents reportedly contain proof that the tobacco company knew about the dangers associated with cigarette smoking.

The university announced the next day that it would publish the documents electronically and also display them in a university library. The documents were then opened to the public in both forms that day.

In mid-February a California superior court had granted the tobacco company’s request for a three-month temporary restraining order to prevent the university from publishing or displaying the documents. Then, at a hearing in late May, Brown & Williamson asked the lower court to issue a preliminary injunction, the appointment of a receiver to keep the documents, or a writ of possession to get the documents back.

The superior court denied these requests, but granted a 20-day extension of the temporary restraining order to give the Court of Appeal time to consider the issue. The appellate court then refused to extend the restraining order. The university agreed to two additional extensions until the end of June while the tobacco company appealed again. Without comment, the California Supreme Court denied the company’s request for an additional extension.

Brown & Williamson plans to appeal the lower court decision which permits the university to display the documents. The merits of the appeal were not addressed by the state high court when it denied the request to stay the temporary restraining order. (Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. Regents of the University of California; University counsel: Christopher Patti, San Francisco)

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.