Opinions & Commentaries

Appellant, a member of the sect known as Jehovah's Witnesses, was convicted in the municipal court of Rochester, New Hampshire, for violation of Chapter 378, § 2, of the Public Laws of New Hampshire:"No person shall address any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place, nor call him by any offensive or derisive name, nor make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with intent to deride, offend or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business or occupation."The complaint charged that appellant, "with force and arms, in a certain public place in said city of Rochester, to wit, on the public sidewalk on the easterly side of Wakefield Street, near unto the entrance of the City Hall, did unlawfully repeat, the words following, addressed to the complainant, that is to say, `You are a God damned racketeer' and `a damned Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists,' the same being offensive, derisive and annoying words and names."Upon appeal there was a trial de novo of appellant before a jury in the Superior Court. He was found guilty and the judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the State. 91 N.H. 310, 18 A.2d 754.

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This case may seem at first blush too inconsequential to find its way into our books, but the issue it presents is of no small constitutional significance.

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Appellee challenged a Georgia statute providing that "[a]ny person who shall, without provocation, use to or of another, and in his presence . . . opprobrious words or abusive language, tending to cause a breach of the peace . . . shall be guilty of a misdemeanor," and had not been narrowed by the Georgia courts to apply only to "fighting" words "which by their very utterance . . . tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace," was on its face unconstitutionally vague and overbroad under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

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Upon the Louisiana Supreme Court's reconsideration of this case in light of Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U. S. 518 (1972), pursuant to our remand, 408 U. S. 913 (1972), that court, three judges dissenting, again sustained appellant's conviction upon a charge of addressing spoken words to a New Orleans police officer in violation of New Orleans Ordinance 828 M. C. S. § 49-7, 263 La. 809, 269 So. 2d 450 (1972).[1] We noted probable jurisdiction, 412 U. S. 926 (1973), and we reverse. We hold that § 49-7, as construed by the Louisiana Supreme Court, is overbroad in violation of the First and Fourteenth *132 Amendments and is therefore facially invalid. Section 49-7 provides:

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438 U.S. 726 (1978) FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION v. PACIFICA FOUNDATION ET AL.     No. 77-528. Supreme Court of United States.    Argued April 18, 19, 1978. Decided July 3, 1978. CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.*728 Joseph A. Marino argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Robert R. Bruce and Daniel M. Armstrong.Harry M. Plotkin argued the cause for respondent Pacifica Foundation. With him on the brief were David Tillotson and Harry F. Cole. Louis F. Claiborne argued the cause for *729 the United States, a respondent […]

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