By William Bennett Turner

For the final 25 years, William Bennett Turner has taught a direction at the First modification at UC Berkeley. His ebook, Figures of Speech, describes the colourful characters who've performed roles in vital First modification controversies. identifying figures and instances from his personal own adventure, Turner illustrates huge First modification rules and describes how we’ve arrived at our modern realizing of the 1st Amendment’s that means.

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Additional info for Figures of Speech: First Amendment Heroes and Villains

Example text

Yetta Stromberg was convicted of both conspiring to display the red flag and actually displaying it. ” Allison cited Gartz for contempt of court and fi ned her $75. ) Stromberg was sentenced to prison for a term of one to ten years. She and the others appealed. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which the Better America Federation considered a front for Soviet interests, handled the appeal. The 20 FI G U R E S O F S PE ECH California Court of Appeal set aside the conspiracy convictions but affirmed the judgment against Stromberg alone for displaying the flag.

It was the Court’s mistake. Fortunately, the Court in subsequent cases has partially rectified the mistake by narrowly limiting Chaplinsky. Since 1942 no conviction has been sustained by using the fightingwords doctrine, and later cases have interpreted Chaplinsky as requiring a direct tendency to cause violence by the person to whom epithets are addressed face to face, not by an offended audience. These cases have also emphasized that courts cannot outlaw words without considering the context within which they are used.

First Amendment freedoms are fragile, since they are always threatened by competing values—from campaign fi nance reform to national security to public decency—and those values change over time. The freedoms that we now have—as exhibited by the principles recited and reinforced in the Citizens United case—were not created yesterday out of whole cloth. Nor did they spring into being upon the ratification of the First Amendment in 1791. Our current freedoms are the products of the kinds of First Amendment controversies, mostly in the last few decades, described below.

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