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Judge James K. Hardy of Carvel is one of the most respected men in town, but when he issues a temporary restraining order against the construction of a controversial $30,000,000 acqueduct, contractor Hoyt Wells threatens to oust him at the next election, and he is supported by Frank Redmond, publisher of the town's newspaper, The Star . That same evening, Marion Hardy, Judge and Mrs. Emily Hardy's daughter, returns to town from college, while their other daughter, Joan Hardy Martin, comes home following a secret separation from her husband Bill. After a routine telephone inquiry about the dinner party that the Hardys are giving for Marion, The Star gossip columnist learns from her editor that only "bad" items are to be printed in the paper about the family, so she writes that Joan and her husband Bill are about "to put boxing gloves on." That night, teenaged Andy Hardy reluctantly leaves his house to take Polly Benedict, his childhood sweetheart who has recently returned to town, to a party. Andy thinks that he is too mature to continue seeing Polly, but is pleasantly surprised when he discovers that she also has grown up during their separation. Marion's new boyfriend, Wayne Trent, whom she met on the train home, is an engineer who has come to town to work on the new acqueduct, and her father's position on the matter worries her. That evening, Joan confesses to her father that she has separated from Bill and is very unhappy. After telling him that she and Bill have been friendly with a "fast crowd," she reveals that she went to a roadhouse with another man and was seen by Bill. Even though her evening was innocent, Bill became furious and he will not listen to her side of the story. The next day, the headline of the Carvel Star reads, "Citizen's Committee Moves to Impeach Judge Hardy," and the paper is posted on public bulletin boards. Angry, Judge Hardy wants to bring contempt of court proceedings against the Star and Redmond. J. Carroll Nichols, the man who asked for the restraining order in the first place, wants to drop the suit to project the judge, but Judge Hardy refuses to give up. Soon the entire town is against the judge because they are afraid that the extra jobs and money promised by Wells will be lost. Polly refuses to speak to Andy because her father opposes the judge, and even Marion and Wayne argue because they cannot marry if Wayne doesn't get the acqueduct job. At a political convention called to determine the judge's fate, Bill shows up and says that the item in the newspaper was untrue and if the paper prints the false story that he and Joan are going to be divorced, he will sue The Star for libel. As people begin to suspect Redmond's motives, Judge Hardy reads "the fine print" on the acqueduct's diverting of the river waters and reveals that Wells had planned to impound the land adjacent to the Carvel River, thus ruining many of the townspeople. Realizing that the judge has saved the town, the crowd cheers him as he permanently rules against the acqueduct. Judge and Mrs. Hardy and their two daughters are now happy, and so is Andy when Polly apologizes to him and gives him a kiss.