|Thornhill v. Alabama|
|Argued February 2, 1938|
Decided April 28, 1940
|Full case name||Thornhill v. State of Alabama|
|Citations||310 U.S. 88 ( more )|
|Prior history||28 Ala.App. 527; 189 So. 913 (1923)|
|The free speech clause protects speech about the facts and circumstances of a labor dispute.|
|Majority||Murphy, joined by Hughes, Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas|
Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88 (1940), is a US labor law case of a United States Supreme Court. It reversed the conviction of the president of a local union for violating an Alabama statute that prohibited only labor picketing. Thornhill was peaceably picketing his employer during an authorized strike when he was arrested and charged. In reaching its decision, Associate Justice Frank Murphy wrote for the Supreme Court that the free speech clause protects speech about the facts and circumstances of a labor dispute. The statute in the case prohibited all labor picketing, but Thornhill added peaceful labor picketing to the area protected by free speech.
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a small range of cases, such as suits between two or more states, and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The Court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions. Each year it agrees to hear about 100–150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review.
Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.
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Byron Thornhill was convicted of "loitering or picketing" near a place of business, pursuant to § 3448 of the 1923 Code of Alabama.Thornhill had been charged with loitering near the Brown Wood Preserving Company with the "intent or purpose of influencing others" to interfere with lawful business during a strike by a local union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. After his conviction in the Inferior Court of Tuscaloosa County, he appealed to the Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa County. He was originally fined "$100 and costs," but was sentenced to prison for 59 days after not paying. After he failed his appeal, the circuit court increased the prison time to 73 days. Furthermore, the court of appeals affirmed the rulings of the two lower courts. The Alabama Supreme Court denied Thornhill's petition for certiorari, but the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently granted the petition.
Loitering is the act of remaining in a particular public place for a protracted time without any apparent purpose. Under certain circumstances, it is illegal in various jurisdictions. Loitering also refers to indoor littering in some parts of the world.
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Tuscaloosa County is a county in the west central portion of the U.S. state of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, its population was 194,656. Its county seat and largest city is Tuscaloosa, the former state capital from 1826 to 1845. The county is named in honor of Tuskaloosa, a paramount chief of the Mississippian culture, who are considered ancestors of the historic Choctaw people of the region.
The majority opinion reversed the lower courts' rulings by citing the freedoms of speech and the press granted in the first amendment, and secured by the fourteenth. The court also found the Alabama statute to be invalid on its face.
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Implicit in Thornhill was the idea that picketing could be curtailed if the picketers marched with signs that went beyond the issues in the particular labor dispute; this would come up in later cases.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958), was an important civil rights case brought before the United States Supreme Court.
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