On This Date in Legal History

Clarence Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan leader, spoke at a rally and remarked– if matters continued as is, then “revengeance” might have to be taken. He was referring to the government’s alleged “suppress[ion] of the white, Caucasian, race.” On another occasion, his speech included racist and anti-Semitic statements. He was arrested and convicted of violating an Ohio law that clamped down on speech advocating violence. Brandenburg was fined $1,000. and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. He argued on appeal that the Ohio statute was unconstitutional, as it violated his First Amendment rights, and his conviction ought to be reversed. The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on February 27, 1969, and on June 9, 1969, the Court handed down its decision in favor of Brandenburg.  The Court explained, “constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action [emphasis added].” The Justices  found that Brandenburg’s remarks didn’t rise to the level of inciting or producing imminent lawless behavior; thus, his speech was protected. You can listen to the oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court at http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_492.

About Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

Tina Nelson is an attorney and mom. She created the LAWSUIT™ board game to teach her three children about the law. The game was an instant success. Copyrights and a patent were obtained, and Professional Games, Inc. was born. Professional Games, Inc. created this blog to educate and keep its friends and customers regularly updated about our American legal system.
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