Sunday, April 5, 2009

My View of 1st Amendment Cases

Case 1: A city passes an ordinance prohibiting drive-in movies from showing films containing nudity if the screen was visible to passerby on the street. A movie theater manager protested, claiming that he had a First Amendment right to show such films, even if they could be seen from the street.
My View: The key words are "visible to passerby on the street." Since the films are being shown in public, the city does have a right to legislate against the showing of nudity since it affects the community.
Case 2: A man wants to enter a military reservation to pass out campaign literature and discuss issues with service personnel. The military denied him access on grounds that regulations prohibit partisan campaigning on military bases.
My View: The military does not have the right to deny the man access to the reservation. Since his money in part funds the reservation, his speech is protected.
Case 3: A town passed an ordinance forbidding the placing of "For Sale" or "Sold" signs in front of homes in racially changing neighborhoods. The purpose was to reduce "white flight" and panic selling. A realty firm protested, claiming that its freedom of speech was being abridged.
My View: The town can't legislate on matters dealing with private property.
Case 4: A girl was raped and died. A local television station broadcast the name of the girl, having obtained it from court records. Her father sued, claiming that his family's right to privacy had been violated. The television station claimed that it had a right under the 1st Amendment to broadcast the name.
My View: As long as the television station did not steal the record, it has the right to publish the name of the girl as part of its freedom of speech.
Case 5: Florida passed a law giving a political candidate the right to equal space in a newspaper that had published attacks on him. A newspaper claimed that this violated the freedom of the press to publish what it wants.
My View: The newspaper can publish whatever it wants because it does not have to adhere to the 1st Amendment.
Case 6: Zacchini is a "human cannonball" whose entire act was filmed and broadcast by a television station. Zacchini sued the station, claiming that his earning power had been reduced. The station replied that it had a 1st Amendment right to broadcast such events.
My View: If Zacchini allows people to videotape his act, he can not regulate what they do with the footage.

*These cases were adopted from American Government Tenth Edition by James Q. Wilson and John Dululio Jr. The exact text as it appears in the book has been shortened/abbreviated.


  1. Journalism major...hint hintSunday, April 5, 2009 at 10:58:00 PM EDT

    In regards to case 4, news stations/papers typically won't print the victim's name in cases like these, in this's a sensitive subject. Sure they have the right to but they typically won't take advantage of it, to avoid upsetting the victim, loved ones, and to stay out of court.

  2. Oh and I'm guessing for case 5 you meant "it does not have to adhere to equal time" or "simultaneous rebuttal". Too bad nobody proofreads this blog anymore.


Your comments are valued greatly. Please adhere to the decorum on the "First time here?" page. Comments that are in violation of any of the rules will be deleted without notice.

3/11 Update - No Moderation

*Non-anonymous commenting is preferred to avoid mix-ups. Anonymous comments are, at the behest of management, more likely to be deleted than non-anonymous comments.