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Cohen v. Cowles Media Co.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued March 27, 1991
Decided June 24, 1991
Full case name Dan Cohen v. Cowles Media Company, dba Minneapolis Star & Tribune Company, et al.
Citations 501 U.S. 663 (more)
111 S. Ct. 2513; 115 L. Ed. 2d 586; 1991 U.S. LEXIS 3639; 59 U.S.L.W. 4773; 18 Media L. Rep. 2273; 91 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4796; 91 Daily Journal DAR 7417
Prior history Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Minnesota
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority White, joined by Rehnquist, Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy
Dissent Blackmun, joined by Marshall, Souter
Dissent Souter, joined by Marshall, Blackmun, O'Connor

Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 501 U.S. 663 (1991)[1], was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that freedom of the press does not exempt journalists from generally applicable laws.

Dan Cohen, a Republican associated with Wheelock Whitney's 1982 Minnesota gubernatorial run, provided inculpatory information on the Democratic challenger for Lieutenant Governor, Marlene Johnson, to the Minneapolis Star Tribune in exchange for a promise that his identity as the source would not be published. Over the reporter's objections, an editor decided to publish his name. He consequently lost his job at an advertising agency. He sued Cowles Media Company who owned the newspaper.

In 1988, a jury of six found in Cohen's favor. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed. The United States Supreme Court remanded the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which reinstated the jury's original verdict of $200,000.

The Cowles Media Company was found to have committed a breach of contract called promissory estoppel.

See also

Further reading

  • Rothenberg, Elliot C. (1999). The Taming of the Press: Cohen v. Cowles Media Company. Westport, CT: Praeger. ISBN 0275966011.  


  1. ^ 501 U.S. 663 (1991), full text of the opinion courtesy of


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