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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Case Summary of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (315 U.S. 568)

Case Summary of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (315 U.S. 568)

I.                    Facts:
 The appellant, Chaplisnky, was convicted of a public penal law in New Hampshire which forbids under penalty that any person shall address "any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place," or "call him by any offensive or derisive name,".  The incident occured in front of the City Hall wherein the appellant willfully and deliberately called Bowinger, the complainant a “damned Fascist" and a "damned racketeer”. The complainant filed a complaint in court wherein he stated that he was just trying to stop the upcoming riot when the defendant shouted and cursed him on the public street. The defendant, however reiterated that he was provoked to curse in public street because it was the complainant who shouted first. The lower court ruled in favor of the complainant citing the public law passed in New Hampshire. The defendant appealled the decision of the circuit court stating that the said public law is a violation of the fourteenth amendment of the constitution providing for the freedom of speech and religion. By providing limitations on the words spoken by individuals, the public law is unconstitutional as it abridges freedom of speech in particular.

II.                Legal Issue:
The issue in this case is whether or not the public law implemented in New Hampshire which is "No person shall address any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place, nor call him by any offensive or derisive name, nor make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with intent to deride, offend or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business or occupation”, is a violation of the  14th amendment of the constitution.

III.             Court Decision
The court ruled that the public law is not violative of the 14th amendment because the purpose of the law is for a better good in the society. The court further stated that the use of words is a breach of peace which is punishable as a criminal act under the law. The freedom of speech given by the constitution cannot use as a cloak to let others demean other people in public places. This is a means of breaching the public peace which is punishable under the law.

IV.             Rationale
The court ruled in favor of the complainant because it stated that the public law implemented by New Hampshire is not violative of the constitution and as such, it protects the rights of persons against abuses verbally. The court further states that the said law is a step towards assuring that peace will not be breached and as such, stating words uttered by the defendant which are "damned racketeer" and "damned Fascist" can likely provoke the average person to retaliation, and thereby cause a breach of the peace. The law is not unconstitutional as it actually protects the rights of the people within a peaceful society as a whole.

V.                Personal Opinion
I dissent to the ruling of the Supreme Court regarding their idea that there is no violation of rights in this case because once a law is focused on the actions of the people, then it can result to the abridging of the constitutional rights. Freedom of speech is a right given to the people and the government cannot make laws against rights which are mandated by the constitution.

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