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Freedom Of Speech Court Case

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Regulation Of Protected Speech Versus Unprotected Conduct In Public Gatherings

Supreme Court to hear free speech case involving cheerleader

8-1 split decision Decided: March 2, 2011.



Does the First Amendment protect protesters at a funeral from liability for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the family of the deceased?


The case changed the way IIED claims are decided. Snyder v. Phelps shifted the way speech is analyzed. Rather than focusing mainly on the status of the target of speech, Snyder requires one look first, and possibly only, to the dominant thrust of the speech. If the dominant thrust of the speech is on a matter of public concern, conveyed on public land, that speech receives constitutional protection regardless of the target.

When Isnt Speech Protected

Not all speech is protected under the First Amendment.

Forms of speech that arent protected include:

  • Plagiarism of copyrighted material

Speech inciting illegal actions or soliciting others to commit crimes arent protected under the First Amendment, either.

The Supreme Court decided a series of cases in 1919 that helped to define the limitations of free speech. Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917, shortly after the United States entered into World War I. The law prohibited interference in military operations or recruitment.

Socialist Party activist Charles Schenck was arrested under the Espionage Act after he distributed fliers urging young men to dodge the draft. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction by creating the clear and present danger standard, explaining when the government is allowed to limit free speech. In this case, they viewed draft resistant as dangerous to national security.

American labor leader and Socialist Party activist Eugene Debs also was arrested under the Espionage Act after giving a speech in 1918 encouraging others not to join the military. Debs argued that he was exercising his right to free speech and that the Espionage Act of 1917 was unconstitutional. In Debs v. United States the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Espionage Act.

Speech That Criticizes And May Threaten Government Or Government Action

  • CHIEF JUSTICE: Salmon Portland Chase

8-0 unanimous Decided, April 12, 1869.



Does Congress have the right to withdraw jurisdiction from the Supreme Court to review decisions of lower courts after that jurisdiction had originally been granted? The sub-issue here is whether Congress can create another anti-sedition act, much like the one enacted in 1798, that will be enforced by military courts in areas where martial law has been declared. In effect, do the First Amendment protections remain in force for all citizens in those areas?

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed McCardles appeal because the Court no longer had jurisdiction over the case. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution includes the Exceptions Clause, which gives Congress the power to deny the Supreme Court jurisdiction over particular cases. In writing the majority opinion for the court, Samuel Chase stated, “The provision of the act of 1867 affirming the appellate jurisdiction of this court in cases of habeas corpus is expressly repealed. It is hardly possible to imagine a plainer instance of positive exception.” McCardles prior conviction was upheld. As a result, the decisions by the military courts denying the First Amendment rights to McCardle remained in force.


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First Amendment: An Overview

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. It prohibits any laws that establish a national religion, impede the free exercise of religion, abridge the freedom of speech, infringe upon the freedom of the press, interfere with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibit citizens from petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1791. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights. The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Court as applying to the entire federal government even though it is only expressly applicable to Congress. Furthermore, the Court has interpreted the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments.

Supreme Court Definition Of Freedom Of Speech

Pin by Robyn V on Truth (With images)

The recent the judicial history of the Supreme Court has seen a broad definition held off theright to freedom of speech, as it is granted to Americans by theFirst Amendment.

One of the basic issues raised by this principle is the question of when it may infringe on other considerations, such as the ability of communities to enforce standards which they find acceptable, groups and individuals to protect themselves against violence and prominent figures to be free of slander andlibel.

The definition of obscenity, for instance, has been thrown into question as to the extent to which it can rule out the exercise of First Amendment rights. Legal commentators haveobserved that the general direction of the Supreme Court has been toward granting the primacy of the right to freedom of speech. The case of Whitney v. California addressed the conditions in which the exercise of the right to freedom of speech came up against the need to guard against violent action.

This case involved the First Amendment claims made by Anna Whitney, who had been jailed under Californias criminal syndicalism laws for beginning the States Communist Labor Party, which was accused of inciting violence. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and denied that the right to freedom of speech guarded against Whitneys conviction.

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Perez V Posse Comitatus

CIR defended Sachem Quality of Life, a non-profit community group designed to deal with the explosion of illegal immigration in the Farmingville area of Long Island after some local labor groups asserted the organization was violating their rights…

Case Status: Victory. Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss remaining claims was granted.

What Does Free Speech Mean

Among other cherished values, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech. The following are examples of speech, both direct and symbolic , that the Court has decided are either entitled to First Amendment protections, or not.

The First Amendment states, in relevant part, that:

Congress shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech.

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Project Vote V Moncrief

CIR represented Anita MonCrief, a former employee of Project Vote, a subsidiary of ACORN. After she left Project Vote in 2008, Ms. MonCrief became a vocal critic of both organizations. In 2009, Project Vote filed suit to silence Ms. MonCrief…

Case Status: Victory. While the case was pending in the Third Circuit, the plaintiff agreed to settle the case on terms favorable to our client.

Paxton Secures Major Victory For The Constitution Free Speech Against Big Tech

Yale Law Students Disrupt Free Speech Event Regarding Supreme Court Case | EWTN News Nightly

Attorney General Paxton has secured a major victory in the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Texans and free speech advocates across the country. The Fifth Circuit reversed a federal district courts ruling that blocked implementation of HB 20, a Texas law that prevents social media networks from censoring users based upon the viewpoint of their online postings. The law also creates multiple requirements for the platforms to disclose to the public how they operate and requires that users be provided with an internal process to complain about censorship decisions.

After the district court struck down HB 20, a Fifth Circuit panel removed the injunction in early May. The U.S. Supreme Court restored the injunction following an emergency motion and sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit.

Big Techs reign of endless censorship and their suppression of conservative viewpoints is coming to an end, said Attorney General Paxton. These massive corporate entities cannot continue to go unchecked as they silence the voices of millions of Americans. HB 20 was designed to protect every Texan wanting to fully express his or her First Amendment rights, and the court made the right decision in upholding the law.

To read the full opinion, .

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Freedom Of Speech / Freedom Of The Press

The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech may be exercised in a direct or a symbolic way. Freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without government interference or regulation. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. Generally, a person cannot be held liable, either criminally or civilly for anything written or spoken about a person or topic, so long as it is truthful or based on an honest opinion and such statements.

A less stringent test is applied for content-neutral legislation. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. For more on unprotected and less protected categories of speech see advocacy of illegal action, fighting words, commercial speech and obscenity. The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicate a message. The level of protection speech receives also depends on the forum in which it takes place.

Affordable Housing Development Corp V Fresno

CIR won an important free speech victory in 2006 in its defense of California resident Travis Compton. Compton had been accused of federal housing discrimination by a low-income housing developer angry over Comptons public comments critical of the developers plans to seek tax exempt bond funding for his project…

Case Status: Loss. District court injunction granting “cease and desist” order affirmed by 6th Circuit. Supreme Court denied owner’s petition to review D.C. Cir. ruling denying review of FCC procedures.

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First Amendment Rights For Students

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 . Reiterated students right to free speech. The Supreme Court stated: It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. It also emphasized that the freedom to protest does not create a freedom to disrupt.

Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 . Using Tinker as a foundation, the Supreme Court noted the significance of the First Amendment at state colleges and universities: State colleges and universities are not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment… the precedents of this Court leave no room for the view that… First Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the community at large. The Supreme Court went on to note that The college classroom with its surrounding environs is peculiarly the marketplace of ideas, …

Yohn V California Teachers Association

Freedom Of Speech And Expression Supreme Court Cases

On February 6, The Center for Individual Rights filed a lawsuit against the state of California and the California Teachers Association on behalf of eight California public school teachers and the Association of American Educators. The teachers are challenging Californias agency shop law, which violates the First Amendment by forcing them to pay annual fees to the union even if they are not a member…

Case Status: Victory

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Religious Freedom Of Speech: Capitol Square Review & Advisory Board V Pinette 515 Us 753

In 1993, Ohio Ku Klux Klan member Vincent Pinette tried to place an unattended cross on the lawn of Ohio Capitol Building at Christmas. Although Ohio law makes Capitol Square a traditional public forum for free speech purposes, The Capitol Square Review & Advisory Board denied the request. Represented by lawyers from the Ohio ACLU Pinette sued under the First Amendment. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that Pinettes speech was fully protected under the Free Speech Clause as secular private expression. Because the Boards refusal to permit his speech in this public forum did not pass strict scrutiny, it violated the First Amendment.

Holder V Humanitarian Law Project

Supreme Court Justices

  • CHIEF JUSTICE: John G. Roberts Jr.
  • Sonia Sotomayor

6-3 split decision Decided: June 21, 2010.



Are provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act , which prohibit providing any … service, … training, or other specialized knowledge to designated foreign terrorist organizations, unconstitutionally vague?


The federal government may prohibit providing non-violent material support for terrorist organizations including legal services and advice without violating the free speech clause of the First Amendment. It is not clear just how protective Chief Justice Roberts and the Court majority were about restricting the right of free speech of those Americans who aid people who might be somehow incidentally connected to terrorism, as Congress had defined it.

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Schenck V United States: Defining The Limits Of Free Speech

Note: Landmark Cases, a C-SPAN series on historic Supreme Court decisionsproduced in cooperation with the National Constitution Centercontinues on Monday, Nov. 2 at 9pm ET. This weeks show features Schenck v. United States.

In a case that would define the limits of the First Amendments right to free speech, the Supreme Court decided the early 20th-century case of Schenck v. United States.

The case began, as many do, with an act of Congress. Shortly after the United States entered into World War I, Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917. It was passed with the goals of prohibiting interference with military operations or recruitment, preventing insubordination in the military, and preventing the support of hostile enemies during wartime.

At the time, Charles Schenck was an important Philadelphia socialist. He was the general secretary of the Socialist Party of America, and was opposed to the United States entry into the war. As part of his efforts to counter the war effort, Schenck organized the distribution of 15,000 leaflets to prospective military draftees encouraging them to resist the draft.

Holmes famously analogized the United States position in wartime to that of a crowded theater:

Your 1st Amendment Rights

Schenck v. United States | BRI’s Homework Help Series

The 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the freedoms that many consider to be the essence of America. The five freedoms guaranteed by the 1st Amendment are speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. Collectively, these are sometimes referred to as freedom of expression.

Freedom of speech is the foundation on which all other 1st Amendment freedoms are based without it the other freedoms could not exist. The purpose of free speech is to protect the minority, often unpopular, viewpoint from being overpowered by the majority, or by the government. The minority viewpoint needs to be heard because, in the long term, it may shape public opinion.

Over the years, the courts have clarified when and how speech can, and cannot, be restricted by the government.

  • For example, true threats and obscenity are not protected speech
  • On the other hand, provocative or offensive political opinions areprotected speech
  • The government can only regulate protected speech in very specific instances, such as protecting public safety or national security

Do you have the same rights at school?

While you dont shed your Constitutional rights when you go to school, they must be balanced with the rights of your classmates, as well as the responsibility of the school to provide a safe environment and a quality education.

Consider these questions as you study the case histories that follow:

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Freedom Of Expression In Schools

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S.Ct. 733, 21 L.Ed.2d. 731 : In this seminal case considering the First Amendment rights of students who were expelled after they wore black armbands to school in symbolic protest of the Vietnam War, the Supreme Court held that students “do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate” and that the First Amendment protects public school students’ rights to express political and social views.

Zykan v. Warsaw Community School Corporation and Warsaw School Board of Trustees, 631 F.2d 1300 : A student brought suit seeking to reverse school officials’ decision to “limit or prohibit the use of certain textbooks, to remove a certain book from the school library, and to delete certain courses from the curriculum.” The district court dismissed the suit. On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the school board has the right to establish a curriculum on the basis of its own discretion, but it is forbidden to impose a “pall of orthodoxy.” The right of students to file complaints was recognized, but the court held that the students’ claims “must cross a relatively high threshold before entering upon the field of a constitutional claim suitable for federal court litigation.”

See also: Evans v. Selma Union High School District of Fresno County, 222 P. 801

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624

Todd v. Rochester Community Schools, 200 N.W.2d 90

Freedom Of Speech Amendment

The concept of freedom of speech came into being in the United States back in the 1780s, when Anti-Federalists, like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, expressed their concerns that the federal government could eventually become too powerful. To keep the government in check, the Bill of Rights was drafted, which gave us, among other guarantees, freedom of speech, as detailed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which can also be considered the Freedom of Speech Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In addition to offering citizens protection from government interference in the expression of their ideas, the Freedom of Speech Amendment also them with the freedom to exercise ones religion free from persecution. This is known as the Free Exercise Clause. Under this clause, citizens are permitted to adopt any religion they choose, and to take part in the rituals that the religion dictates.

Similarly, the Establishment Clause prevents the government from establishing one official religion that the countrys citizens all must follow. It also prevents the government from developing a preference for, or promoting one religion over another, religion over the lack of religion, or non-religion over religion.

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