• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court strengthened freedom of speech rights when speakers draw hostile opposition.

Justice William O. DouglasDouglas, William O.;Terminiello v. Chicago[Terminiello v. Chicago] wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority, overturning the conviction of a profascist, anti-Semitic priest named Terminiello who spoke to a sympathetic audience while a hostile crowd gathered outside. Terminiello was arrested for disturbing the peace. The local court convicted him by simply finding that his speech made the audience outside the hall angry. The Supreme Court found that the fact that his speech had angered a group was inadequate grounds for a conviction because it did not show that the speaker incited actions that were a clear and present danger. The case featured strong dissents by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson and Justices Felix Frankfurter and Robert H. Jackson, who argued that the case should have followed the fighting words limitation set out in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire[case]Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire[Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire] (1942). The strength of the dissents is significant because the Court’s 5-4 majority evaporated in similar cases such as Feiner v. New York[case]Feiner v. New York[Feiner v. New York] (1951).Speech, freedom of;Terminiello v. Chicago[Terminiello v. Chicago]Assembly and association, freedom of;Terminiello v. Chicago[Terminiello v. Chicago]

Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote a strong dissent in Terminiello, arguing that a balance had to be sought between expressive freedom and public order.

(Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

Assembly and association, freedom of

Bad tendency test

Brandenburg v. Ohio

Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire

Clear and present danger test

Feiner v. New York

Gitlow v. New York

Schenck v. United States

Speech and press, freedom of

Whitney v. California

Categories: History