Exceptions to First Amendment

Opinions & Commentaries

Walter Chaplinsky, a Jehovah’s Witness, stood on a street corner in Rochester, NH distributing materials and denouncing all religions as a “racket.” After people complained to the city marshal about Chaplinsky’s actions, the officer informed the crowd that he was allowed to be on the corner. As the crowd grew more restless, the marshal warned Chaplinsky of a riot, to which he replied “You are a God damned racketeer” and “a damned Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists.” Chaplinsky was arrested and convicted under a state statute, making it unlawful to “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.”

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This case here on appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1257 raises questions concerning the constitutional power of a state to apply its anti-trade-restraint law[1] to labor union activities, and to enjoin union members from peaceful picketing carried on as an essential and inseparable part of a course of conduct which is in violation of the state *492 law. The picketing occurred in Kansas City, Missouri. The injunction was issued by a Missouri state court.

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Beauharnais produced a leaflet that called on the Mayor and City Council of Chicago “to halt the further encroachment, harassment and invasion of white people, their property, neighborhoods and persons, by the Negro.” The leaflet also called for the use of violence to further this goal. Beauharnais was charged under an Illinois law prohibiting exposing “any race, color, creed or religion to contempt, derision, or obloquy[.]”

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The defendant operated a mail-order business that mailed circulars, advertisements, and a book that the trial court held to be legally obscene and therefore without First Amendment protection.

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Brandenburg was convicted of violating a criminal law that prohibited speech that advocates crime, sabotage, violence, and other similar acts after he spoke at a KKK rally. The Supreme Court found that the law infringed on Brandenburg's First Amendment rights, and created the imminent lawless action test. In order for speech to fall out of First Amendment protection, it must 1) be directed at producing imminent lawless action and 2) it is likely to produce such action.

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The plaintiff-appellees in this case attack, as violative of the First and Fourteenth Amendments,[1] that portion of § 54-524.35 of Va. Code Ann. (1974), which provides that a pharmacist licensed in Virginia is guilty of unprofessional *750 conduct if he "(3) publishes, advertises or promotes, directly or indirectly, in any manner whatsoever, any amount, price, fee, premium, discount, rebate or credit terms . . . for any drugs which may be dispensed only by prescription."[2] The three-judge District Court declared the quoted portion of the statute "void and of no effect," Jurisdictional Statement, App. 1, and enjoined the defendant-appellants, the Virginia State Board of Pharmacy and the individual members of that Board, from enforcing it. 373 F. Supp. 683 (ED Va. 1974). We noted probable jurisdiction of the appeal. 420 U. S. 971 (1975).

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Petitioner Splawn was convicted in 1971 of the sale of two reels of obscene film, a misdemeanor violation of California Penal Code § 311.2 (West 1970). After the conviction was affirmed on appeal by the California First District Court of Appeal and the State Supreme Court denied review, this Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded for consideration in light of our decision in Miller v. California, 413 U. S. 15 (1973), which had set forth the standards by *597 which the constitutionality of § 311.2 was to be determined. After the State Supreme Court ruled that the statute satisfied the requirements articulated in Miller, see Bloom v. Municipal Court, 16 Cal. 3d 71, 545 P. 2d 229 (1976), the Court of Appeal again affirmed the conviction and the California Supreme Court denied petitioner's motion for a hearing.

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454 U.S. 90 (1981) CALIFORNIA EX REL. COOPER, CITY ATTORNEY OF SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA v. MITCHELL BROTHERS’ SANTA ANA THEATER ET AL.   No. 81-271. Supreme Court of United States.   Decided November 30, 1981 ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICTPER CURIAM. The petition for… Read more

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The owner of a bookstore in Manhattan was convicted of promoting a sexual performance of a child by selling two sexually explicit films involving young boys to undercover police officers. New York argued this was in violation of a state criminal statute that prohibits knowingly promoting sexual performances by children under 16 by distributing material which depicts such performances. It also prohibits such materials that are produced out of state.

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Respondents, Illinois for-profit fundraising corporations and their owner (collectively Telemarketers), were retained by VietNow National Headquarters, a charitable nonprofit corporation, to solicit donations to aid Vietnam veterans. The contracts between those parties provided, among other things, that Telemarketers would retain 85 percent of the gross receipts from Illinois donors, leaving 15 percent for VietNow. The Illinois Attorney General filed a complaint in state court, alleging, inter alia, that Telemarketers represented to donors that a significant amount of each dollar donated would be paid over to VietNow for specifically identified charitable endeavors, and that such representations were knowingly deceptive and materially false, constituted a fraud, and were made for Telemarketers' private pecuniary benefit. The trial court granted Telemarketers' motion to dismiss the fraud claims on First Amendment grounds. In affirming, the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts placed heavy weight on Schaumburg v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 444 U. S. 620, Secretary of State of Md. v. Joseph H. Munson Co., 467 U. S. 947, and Riley v. National Federation of Blind of N. C., Inc., 487 U. S. 781. Those decisions held that certain regulations of charitable solicitation barring fees in excess of a prescribed level effectively imposed prior restraints on fundraising, and were therefore incompatible with the First Amendment. The state high court acknowledged that this case involved no such prophylactic proscription of high-fee charitable solicitation. Instead, the court noted, the Attorney General sought to enforce the State's generally applicable antifraud laws against Telemarketers for specific instances of deliberate deception. However, the Illinois Supreme Court said, Telemarketers' solicitation statements were alleged to be false only because Telemarketers contracted for 85 percent of the gross receipts and failed to disclose this information to donors. The court concluded that the Attorney General's complaint was, in essence, an attempt to regulate Telemarketers' ability to engage in a protected activity based upon a percentage-rate limitation-the same regulatory principle rejected in Schaumburg, Munson, and Riley.

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Congress passed a federal statute that banned any depictions in which “a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed.” The law was intended to target so-called “crush videos,” which “depict women slowly crushing animals to death ‘with their bare feet or while wearing high heeled shoes[.]’” Stevens was charged under this law for producing videos containing dogfighting.

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