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Free Speech History
Law, politics, and culture evolve with the times. These stories show why.
Constitutional Protection for Dangerous Speech?
Does the First Amendment protect hateful speech that might incite violence?Famous Supreme Court ruling on limits of dangerous speech began with arrest of 1964 arrest of KKK member Clarence Brandenb...
Oliver Wendell Holmes and Free Speech
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was an influential Supreme Court justice in early 20th centuryHolmes's experiences fighting in the Civil War made him skeptical of crusading idealistic causes such as th...
The First Amendment in 1900
The Supreme Court heard no free speech cases during the 19th century, meaning a narrow 18th century reading of the First Amendment persisted to 1900Doctrine of incorporation extended First Amendmen...
Schenck v. United States
Charles Schenck was a socialist arrested for violating the Espionage Act by distributing pamphlets urging draftees to refuse to serve in World War ISupreme Court in Schenck v. United States establi...
The Clear and Present Danger Test
Justice Holmes developed nuances of "clear and present danger test" in series of cases following World War IIn Abrams v. United States, Holmes wrote that the government should not apply "clear and...
Bridges and Terminiello
1941 Supreme Court regarding labor leader Harry Bridges ended with majority ruling that speech should only be restricted as "clear and present danger" in rare cases of extremely serious risk1949 Te...
The Smith Act: Fighting Communism by Restricting Speech
1940 Smith Act made it illegal to advocate the overthrow of the US government; was used to prosecute Communist Party leaders for their revolutionary viewsIn 1951 case Dennis v. United States, Supre...
KKK member Clarence Brandenburg was convicted of an Ohio law banning advocacy of violence to accomplish political changeSupreme Court ruled that Brandenburg had a First Amendment right to make his...
Since 1940s, Supreme Court struggled to define clear limits on restrictions of pornography and obscenity under the First AmendmentIn 1964, Justice Potter Stewart defined obscenity vaguely: "I know...
Limits of Free Speech
In 1948 case Winters v. New York, Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protected the distribution of literature lacking literary meritIn Winters, the Court also ruled that there was no clea...
Roth v. United States: A New Definition of Obscenity
1957 case Roth v. United States ruled that all speech was guaranteed First Amendment protection unless it was "utterly without redeeming social importance"In Roth, Court defined obscenity as materi...
Ginzburg v. United States: "Pandering" = Pornography
In 1965 decision, court ruled that salacious advertisements for erotic materials could be regulated as appealing to prurient interestsSeemed to indicate a more conservative turn in Supreme Court ob...
Miller v. California: The Current Definition of Obscenity
1973 Supreme Court case established new standard for obscenity casesFor speech to be banned as obscene, it had to have no "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value"Local judges an...
Do Students Have First Amendment Rights?
In recent decades, Supreme Court has issued somewhat confusing rulings on question of whether or not students have First Amendment rights when at school Do students have a right to say what they wa...
Tinker v. Des Moines: Establishing the Right
1969 Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines found that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate"Tinker established broad pr...
Bethel v. Fraser and Morse v. Frederick: Limiting the Right
In 1986 case Bethel v. Fraser, Supreme Court ruled that First Amendment did not protect disruptive or offensive student speechIn 2007 case Morse v. Frederick, Supreme Court ruled that a school coul...
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier: Freedom of Student Press?
1988 case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier established standard for censorship of school newspapersCourt ruled that school officials could exercise prior restraint if and when a student newspaper was produce...
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