Active vs. Passive and Justice Stewart

Justice Potter Stewart, A United States Supreme court Justice who sat on the Court in the 1960s, said it best in the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio. He had a concurring opinion as he agreed in the result but not how the majority got there.  This was an opinion dealing with obscenity and whether or not a film was obscene. (The justices watched the film as part of their decision-making- oh, to  have been a fly on the wall)

Justice Stewart said, in part, “under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. ”

I like this statement and I’m going to borrow the learned Justice’s words and say, I won’t try to define for you today the differences in active voice and passive voice as I may not succeed in doing it intelligibly but I know it when I see it.

Happy Tuesday!!

About Author

The author of these blog posts is a lawyer by day and fiction writer by night.
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10 Responses to Active vs. Passive and Justice Stewart

  1. danicaavet says:

    *scratches her head* This is why I couldn’t become a lawyer, what he said prior to “But I know it when I see it” made no sense to me, LOL 😉

    Short and sweet post, Jillian, and very good!


  2. Laurie Ryan says:

    Hilarious response to the theme this week, Jillian. I LOVE it. 🙂 I did go out and google what movie the ruling was about. And I’m currently going through my ms looking for those “ing” words, so this reminder is timely for me. Thanks!


    • Laurie- I have loved this quote since I was in law school- I actually use it quite often and it came to me when I was mulling over what to write. Glad you liked it and it made you do some research! That’s success in my book! 🙂


  3. jeff7salter says:

    Yeah, that’s a great quote, but I didn’t realize it was Justice Stewart’s.
    I thought it was Earl Warren’s line. But, of course, I don’t actually follow the Supreme Court all that closely.
    Ya’ll tune-in on Thursday to see some of the Hound’s revelations on this matter.


  4. Lavada Dee says:

    Yep, I’ve used it but never really thought about where it originated from. I’m getting an education with you Jillian.


    • I’m happy to help with your education, Lavada. I never thought I’d be a good teacher as when I tried it in a college atmosphere, I hated it. This blogging gig is a much more fun way to get stuff out of my head!


  5. Micki Gibson says:

    “I know it when I see it.” Isn’t that also your answer to what makes a book high concept? 🙂 You have to forgive me as I still have a bit of jet lag and a bazillion emails demanding my attention. I’m as delayed as some of my flights were in taking off. Anyhow, now I know WHO originally said the infamous line. I feel so much smarter now, so thank you, Jillian!


    • No, Micki, my answer to high concept is I look in the mirror since that editor at Grand Central said I was it. Lol. And yeah, you have heard me use that phrase. I’m glad to finally tell you who it originated with.


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