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First Amendment Rights (PSC 261-101) Week One Notes (9-13-16/9-15-16)

by: Wryan Mitchell

First Amendment Rights (PSC 261-101) Week One Notes (9-13-16/9-15-16) PSC 261

Marketplace > DePaul University > Political Science > PSC 261 > First Amendment Rights PSC 261 101 Week One Notes 9 13 16 9 15 16
Wryan Mitchell
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These are the first week's notes showing our discussion of four cases: Schenk vs. United States, Abrams vs. United States, Chaplinky vs. New Hampshire, and Brandenburg vs. Ohio
First Amendment Rights
Joseph Mello
Class Notes




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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Wryan Mitchell on Saturday September 17, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSC 261 at DePaul University taught by Joseph Mello in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 55 views. For similar materials see First Amendment Rights in Political Science at DePaul University.

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Date Created: 09/17/16
Week One (9-13-16/9-15-16) Schenk vs. United States (1919) • Case facts: Charles Scheck was charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by trying to persuade possible military recruits to not enlist in the military during the United States’ involvement in World War I. The Espionage Act prohibits people from intervening in military procedures or enrollment, prevents resistance in the military, and to prevent people from backing the enemies of the United States in a time of war. Schenk distributed 15,000 leaflets via mail urging them to not enlist in the draft and that being forced to enlist is a violating of their right to “assert your opposition to the draft”. (pg. 1) • Legal Questions? Is the distribution of these leaflets protected under the First Amendment? Does the Espionage Act show conflict to the First Amendment? • Outcome: Unanimous for the United States • Majority Opinion: The Court found that, because Schenk’s actions happened whilst the US was at war, his actions violated the Espionage Act and was not protected under the First Amendment. Because his intent was clear and that the leaflets showed his specific interest in dissuading men from enlisting in the army, the Court had clear evidence that Schenk was violating the Espionage Act, specifically because Schenk showed intent to interfere even though there hadn’t been any actual interference. • Dissenting Opinion: No dissent Abrams v. United States (1919) • Case facts: Mollie Steimer, Hyman Lachowsky, Jacob Schwartz, Gabriel Prober, Samuel Lipman, and Jacob Abrams were all Russians who immigrated to United States, but had never became naturalized Americans. As self-labeled “anarchists”, “rebels”, and “revolutionists”, they were against the United States fighting against their home country. They all collaborated to distribute leaflets in New York City that explicitly stated (in Yiddish) their opposition to the US government’s involvement in the war and their wish for workers in to stop working so that the US could, essentially, lose the war and prevent Russians from dying. They were charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, but argued that their right to publish these leaflets were protected under the First Amendment. • Legal Questions? Does the Espionage Act show conflict to the First Amendment? • Outcome: 7-2 for the United States • Majority Opinion: The Court found the defendants guilty of violating the Espionage Act because the leaflets depicted the defendants intent to interfere with US procedures and showed their loyalty to the US’ enemy, Russia. The defendants gave specific ways of how to stop the US from contributing to the war (such as “curtailment of production of ordinance and ammunition” (pg.1)) if they did not stop fighting Russia. The Court found that these words were proof of intent to violate the Espionage Act. • Dissenting Opinion: In Justice Holmes’ dissenting opinion, he says that just because these defendants are merely saying that they want workers to stop working and that they will fight the US if they don’t stop fighting Russia, they are protected under the First Amendment to say these things and that, because they are just words, it does not prove intent to put these words into action. He believes that words alone cannot prove that someone will carry out certain actions that can be seen as harmful to others; because these defendants have not actually done anything they said that they would, they have showed no intention to carry out those actions. The distribution of these leaflets is a right held by the First Amendment and, despite the words used in these leaflets, these defendants have the right to distribute them. Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire (1942) • Case Facts: Walter Chaplinsky was a Jehovah’s Witness, who was passing out information about his religion in Rochester. Witnesses stated that Chaplinsky was condemning other religions and was causing pandemonium, eventually leading to City Marshal Bowering to give him a warning about keeping the ruckus down. Chaplinsky didn’t listen to Marshal Bowering and continued to create pandemonium. The City Marshal returned to arrest him and witnesses stated that Chaplinsky called Marshal Bowering a “God-damned racketeer” (pg. 1) and “a damned Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists” (pg. 1). Chaplinsky was charged with using “offensive, derisive, and annoying words and names” (pg. 1) or “fighting words”. Chaplinsky argued that the statute violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process and that his right to free speech was being restricted. • Legal Questions? Are “fighting words” protected under the First Amendment? • Outcome: Unanimous for New Hampshire • Majority Opinion: The Court found that the First Amendment did not protect the words used by Chaplinsky because those words were believed to be “lewd, obscene, profane, libelous, and insulting” (pg. 2). Chaplinsky’s words are described as “fighting words”, which are considered words that have the purpose of disturbing the peace and causing harm to others. The Court considered “fighting words” as unprotected by the Constitution because they are used to cause the addressee to act out in a violent manner and therefore create a violation of peace. The Court believes that words that are protected under the First Amendment are words that do not have the intention to cause people to act out violently. Regarding Chaplinsky’s argument that this statute violates his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, the Court found that the statute does not violate that amendment because Chaplinsky is being charged with specific punishable verbal acts that show a violation to the First Amendment. • Dissent Opinion: No dissent Brandenburg vs. Ohio (1969) • Case facts: Clarence Brandenburg was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan, who organized a rally where he said “we’re not a revengent organization, but if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengenance taken” (pg. 2). He was charged and convicted of violating the Ohio Syndicalism Statute, which prohibits “persons who advocate or teach the duty, necessity, or propriety of violence as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform” (pg. 2). He opposed the decision by deeming the Criminal Syndicalism Act as a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. • Legal Questions? Does the CSA violate the First Amendment? • Outcome: Unanimous for Brandenburg, concurred by Justice Douglas • Majority Opinion: The Court found the Brandenburg’s words did not violate the CSA because it did not pass the “clear and present danger test” (pg. 3). The clear and present danger test is used to see of said words put others at immediate and unfaltering danger. In his concurrence, Justice Douglas stated that teaching unpopular ideals is protected under the First Amendment, but putting those ideals into action and causing violence is not. • Dissenting Opinion: No dissent


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