THORNHILL v. ALABAMA | The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Case Overview

Legal Principle at Issue

Whether an anti-picketing statute violated the First Amendment.

Action

The Supreme Court held that the statute was unconstitutional, overruling the Alabama Court of Appeals.

Facts/Syllabus

Byron Thornhill was “on the picket line” at Brown Wood Preserving Company after a strike order was issued by his union. This action violated an Alabama statute that made it illegal to “go near to or loiter about the premises or place of business” to persuade others “not to trade with, buy from, sell to, have business dealings with, or be employed by such persons.”

Importance of Case

The Supreme Court held the statute “invalid on its face.” The Court stated: “Free discussion concerning the conditions in industry and the causes of labor disputes appears to us indispensable to the effective and intelligent use of the processes of popular government to shape the destiny of modern industrial society.” The Court also held that: “The range of activities proscribed” by the statute at issue “embraces nearly every practicable, effective means” to “enlighten the public.”

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